The UND School of Law, which is planning to offer internships to law students in which they will go and provide legal services in rural North Dakota. Photo by Chester Beltowski/The Dakota Student.
Starting next summer, a new pilot program at the UND School of Law will have some students exploring more rural parts of the North Dakota.
The proposed program was created to address the shortage of attorneys across North Dakota. Twenty-one of the state’s 53 counties have less than four attorneys and four of the 53 counties have none according to a UND press release.
The program would offer three internships for law students to go to smaller communities in the state that have less than 15,000 people. The interns would work closely with a judge throughout the summer and into the school year.
The hope is that students will learn more about rural communities and the benefits that come from working in them as well.
“It will give students exposure and gain an appreciation to practice in a small community and hopefully go there when they are finished,” said Brad Parrish, Assistant Dean of Student Life for the law school.
The internships have been established by a collaboration between the UND School of Law, the State Bar Association of North Dakota and the state courts to help remedy the lack of attorneys especially in the western portion of the state.
“There are real legal needs out there: more oil and gas law, an increasing amount of probate matters, more crimes to deal with and more need for family law. Right now, without immediate access to legal services, it’s very difficult for people, and it can increase costs,” said Gail Hagerty, a judge from the Bismarck-Mandan area, stated in a UND press release. “We also need more attorneys to do indigent defense work, we need more prosecutors, and we need more new practitioners. There’s a lot of potential in rural communities.”
Right now, the internships are only a pilot program, but Parrish said the school will see how it goes after the first year and then potentially makes some changes and expand.
“Some students are excited about the application process and have been asking about it,” Parrish said.
The application process will begin in the spring of 2014.
“If I was a first-year student, I would definitely be interested,” third-year law student Brad Holter said. “There seems to be a great need for legal help in rural areas.”
Holter, who is originally from Bismarck, also said these internships would be great for students who are from rural areas and have family to stay with in the area, but he thought housing may be a problem for those who do not have a relative or friend to stay with.
Derek Steiner, a first year UND student from Fargo, said he thinks this internship is a good opportunity for students.
“It’s definitely something I would be interested in,” Steiner said. “Overall, it seems like a good experience working under a judge and getting a realistic experience.”
Not only are students looking forward to the new program but the school of law is as well.
“We are very excited to provide this opportunity and are thankful for the state bar association, the legislation, judges, clerks, attorneys and everyone who works in the communities and will be involved in this program,” Parrish said.
For more information about the internships contact Parrish at (701)-777-3004 or by email at [email protected]
Editor’s Note: Gail Hagerty is the mother of The Dakota Student editor-in-chief Carrie Sandstrom.
Ashley Marquis is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected]