When I was a law student, I distinctly remember the Chief Justice of the South Dakota Supreme Court, David Gilbertson speaking to law students about the absence of attorneys in many rural communities and the problems this was creating in the administration of justice. I remember thinking that rural practice could be an excellent opportunity, but not having a clue as to how one would find out about rural communities in need of attorneys.
Well, the South Dakota State Bar Association has taken up the challenge of studying the decline of rural law practice through its recent announcement of the creation of the Rural Practice Task Force (see page 2 of the State Bar Newsletter). This development has been widely reported on, both within South Dakota (see the Argus Leader's coverage), as well as more widespread national coverage (see the Wall Street Journal Law Blog's coverage, see this post from the Rural Lawyer blog, and see this post from My Shingle).
In my short time thus far practicing law in rural Nebraska, I have already heard from one judge and multiple attorneys about the need for attorneys in certain rural communities, as well as the gratitude and relief that some new attorneys are moving to more rural communities to begin their careers. It is clear to me that this problem is certainly not limited to South Dakota.
What should be done to address the problem of 'justice denied' in rural communities? I'm not exactly sure, but I think that the task force created by the South Dakota State Bar is an excellent first step. I, for one, will be following the task force's activity to see what they discover.