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Rural Practice Incentive Program brings lawyers to underserved populations.

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Ohio, like most states, has vast regions that have too few lawyers based upon population needs.

In Ohio, 82 of the 88 counties do not have adequate representation. Only the top six urban counties meet the standard of one lawyer per 700 people, says Chief Justice Sharon Kennedy of the Supreme Court of Ohio

That leaves 6.5 million people or 56 percent of Ohio’s population without access to attorneys to meet their basic legal needs such as issues related to health care, housing, food assistance, criminal defense and cases involving children, including custody, neglect, and abuse.

For example, Vinton County, Ohio only has two lawyers for a county population of 12,000 people, according to Chief Justice Kennedy.

To help solve this problem, Ohio is launching a pilot program to bring young lawyers to these underserved areas. There is a partnership between the Ohio Department of Higher Education, the Ohio Access to Justice Foundation and the Supreme Court of Ohio to ease the crisis.

Third year law students and lawyers who have been licensed less than eight years who want to practice in one of the underserved counties can work for a prosecutor’s office, a public defender, or take court appointed cases totaling 520 hours per year.

If they apply to the program and qualify, the attorneys can earn between $30,000 and $50,000 toward repaying student loans. There is a three-year commitment with $10,000 being paid each year with the possibility of extending the term for two additional years.

If this program is successful, then the partners will work to expand the program and possibly try other incentives to fill the lawyer gap. Other states also will be monitoring Ohio’s efforts.

If interested, you may apply by March 15, 2024.

Click here for more information about the program: