South Dakota

Lacking lawyers, Plains states try new rural staffing tacks

  • In this Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016 photo, attorney Thomas Maul poses in front of a mural in downtown Columbus, Neb. Maul headed the Nebraska State Bar Association this past year and was instrumental in pushing the program to recruit lawyers to rural Nebraska. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

    In this Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016 photo, attorney Thomas Maul poses in front of a mural in downtown Columbus, Neb. Maul headed the Nebraska State Bar Association this past year and was instrumental in pushing the program to recruit lawyers to rural Nebraska. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016 photo, attorney Thomas Maul smiles in his office in Columbus, Neb. Maul headed the Nebraska State Bar Association this past year and was instrumental in pushing the program to recruit lawyers to rural Nebraska. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

    In this Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016 photo, attorney Thomas Maul smiles in his office in Columbus, Neb. Maul headed the Nebraska State Bar Association this past year and was instrumental in pushing the program to recruit lawyers to rural Nebraska. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016 photo, attorney Thomas Maul poses in front of a mural in downtown Columbus, Neb. Maul headed the Nebraska State Bar Association this past year and was instrumental in pushing the program to recruit lawyers to rural Nebraska. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

    In this Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016 photo, attorney Thomas Maul poses in front of a mural in downtown Columbus, Neb. Maul headed the Nebraska State Bar Association this past year and was instrumental in pushing the program to recruit lawyers to rural Nebraska. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)  (The Associated Press)

The struggle to recruit attorneys to rural areas hasn't let up despite several Plains states' efforts.

That's particularly true in states such as Nebraska with vast stretches of sparsely populated land.

But the state has launched a program that targets rural high schools students, hoping to persuade them to return to their rural roots to practice law.

The Rural Law Opportunities Program offers high-achieving high school students full-tuition undergraduate scholarships to three rural Nebraska colleges. Those who maintain a 3.5 GPA and get a minimum LSAT score are automatically accepted to the University of Nebraska College of Law.

Program organizer Thomas Maul hopes the rate of return will be as high as the 60 percent reported by a similar program to get doctors into small towns.