Arkansas’ Small Towns Need Lawyers

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Twenty-five of the Arkansas’  most rural counties have only one or no lawyers at all. The shortage of attorneys has the UA-Little Rock Bowen School of Law launching a program to help address the issue.

The Rural Practice Incubator Project is the state’s first law firm incubator program.

“I love practicing in a small town,” says Margaret Dobson, Attorney-at-Law.

Dobson is one of only two full-time attorneys in Sheridan.

“I have people walking into my office all the time,” she continues. 

Dobson hung her shingle 17 years ago.

“I have a huge practice…really we need another attorney in town,” she adds.

It’s a problem that’s all too familiar in rural Arkansas.

“Arkansas is the most underserved state in the country when it comes to lawyers,” says Amy Johnson, Executive Director, Arkansas Access to Justice Commission.

She says Arkansas’ three-thousand attorneys are unable to serve the state’s three-million people.

“We’re trying to meet the lawyer shortage by encouraging students to find a place that’s underserved,” explains Amy Pritchard, Director of Rural Practice Incubator Project.

The Bowen School of Law is starting a new chapter this Fall where students and alumni can take what they learn from the books…to the bench.

“Two week training boot camp to learn how to start a law practice and basics of practicing law,” says Pritchard.

The Rural Practice Incubator Project will offer free training, resources, mentorship and financial aid, equipping and motivating new attorneys to open up their practices in parts of the state needing lawyers the most.

“Where I am in Sheridan, I am closest to Cleveland County, which has no lawyers and judges call me frequently to come down and take care of cases in that area,” says Dobson. “There are alot of people who need help.”

While business is quite busy, Dobson wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I tell my children, I help people who have problems and I love helping people,” she says.

There are about 60 of these types of incubators nationwide. The rural program in Arkansas will begin in the Fall.

Click here to learn more about the Rural Practice Incubator Project in Arkansas.   http://ualr.edu/law/clinical-programs/rural-practice-incubator-project/

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