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Document Type

Note

Publication Date

10-1-2015

Publication Citation

90 Indiana Law Journal 1683 (2015)

Abstract

There are two distinct but related issues that affect legal representation in rural areas of the United States: the problem of attracting and keeping private attorneys,1 and the problem of satisfying the immense need for pro bono representation for low-income residents. Although these issues are interrelated—attracting attorneys to rural areas can help satisfy the need for pro bono representation—each state is handling the problems in distinctive ways.

In Part I, this Note will demonstrate why the Northern Rockies—which consists of the states of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming—is a distinctive region with enough similarities between states that a single proposal to improve legal services delivery would be effective across the entire region. In Part II, this Note will discuss the problems facing the Northern Rockies states in delivering legal services to rural areas. In Part III, this Note will examine some of the current solutions being employed in the Northern Rockies states, as well as across the nation, to increase access to legal services for low-, moderate-, and high-income rural residents. This Note will then argue that each solution is either ineffectual or insufficient to solve the issues related to the access of legal services facing rural residents of the Northern Rockies. In Part IV, this Note will recommend that the Northern Rockies states establish statewide networks of “Town Legal Centers,” which operate as virtual offices in local communities where residents can meet with legal professionals from around the state. This Note will then propose that Town Legal Centers should be open not only to legal aid organizations but also to private attorneys offering paid legal services. With a rational basis referral system, these Centers can promote increased pro bono participation from the private bar and provide statewide volunteer opportunities for law students. Last, this Note will explore several different sources of funding that could be used to create and maintain Town Legal Centers and then argue that the program could potentially achieve self-sufficiency through a use fee for paid legal services.

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