South Dakota is known for its open spaces and rural communities. So lawmakers are now asking if these small towns have the legal representation they need.
Senate Bill 218 would set up a program to put more lawyers in South Dakota's rural counties.
The law firms of Sioux Falls and Rapid City may be enticing to begin a legal career, but now our lawmakers are wondering if that's where we really need more lawyers.
"For me, it’s really, really worked out well," attorney Robin Eich said.
Eich has law offices in Hartford and Parker. She says it takes a different mind set to have a successful legal career in our smaller communities. There is another law office in Parker other than hers with four attorneys.
"Three of those four attorneys are at their second location almost 100 percent of the time in Sioux Falls. So I think there is a need in some communities. But you have to just find the certain type of person where it's going to work and that’s what they truly want to do," Eich said.
The bill would set up a program to put a maximum of 16 USD Law School grads or attorneys who have been South Dakota residents for three years in counties with populations of 12,000 or less. And while it may be good to get more legal assistance in rural South Dakota, Eich does have concerns for new lawyers setting up practices.
"The attorneys I've seen that come out of law school, and I was one of those, you don't know for sure what documents get filed with the clerk. You don't understand some of those basic, basic things that have to be done when you're running not only a business, but a law practice," Eich said.
If done right, she says it could be beneficial to both the community and person setting up a practice, but she wants to make sure it's a program that has a long-term goal.
"Because if someone of the community has a relationship that they establish with that attorney, it can be detrimental to that community if that attorney at some point in time decides to leave," Eich said.
The bill has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee and is waiting action in the Senate Appropriations committee.