Lawyers and law students curious about rural practice join the “Greater Wisconsin
Initiative” bus tour, arriving in Rhinelander, WI. Photo: Kristen Durst
Wisconsin is a beautiful state in every part, with vibrant communities throughout. But outside of our larger cities many of those communities are facing a hidden problem: they either have too few lawyers, or the lawyers they have in many cases are nearing the end of their careers. At the same time, many young lawyers and law students in our cities are finding it difficult to gain purchase in their careers – or even to find legal jobs at all. It is an imbalance of supply and demand.
The State Bar of Wisconsin saw an opportunity to start to address both sides of the problem. Our New Lawyer Challenges Committee, with financial assistance from the Wisconsin Law Foundation and the Senior Lawyers Division, recently sponsored the first “Greater Wisconsin Initiative” bus tour, taking lawyers and law students to rural communities to introduce them to the opportunities they might find just a little bit off the beaten path. The bus tour happened in early October and on its inaugural trip went to Rhinelander and Marinette. Based on the reception in those communities, we think this is a program that will continue.
I was fortunate enough to join the group in the beautiful north woods region in Rhinelander. To say that the community put on a great reception would be an understatement. Representatives of local schools, the medical profession, financial institutions, the Chamber of Commerce, and the arts community, just to name a few, spoke at a welcome luncheon. The participants then got a tour of the area, and in the evening a joint dinner was held with the Oneida-Vilas-Forest Bar Association. The next day, Marinette was just as enthusiastic in its welcome of our group.
While it is a little early to report any success stories of lawyers moving north, we are excited about this initiative. We believe every part of Wisconsin needs lawyers to assist in the functioning of the local economy, to provide the kind of trained leadership and critical thinking that lawyers have and that community organizations need, and quite simply to ensure there is access to our justice system for the people of those communities. The State Bar of Wisconsin is committed to supporting the profession everywhere in our state, north, south, west, and east.