Bridging the Rural Justice Gap

/ Blog Post

In law school, surrounded by other passionate public service leaders, justice always feels within reach. In rural America, it can be a lot harder to come by.

That’s why Equal Justice Works teamed up with the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) in 2016 to create the Rural Summer Legal Corps (RSLC), a one-of-a-kind opportunity for law students to help ensure that everyone has access to justice—not just those in urban areas.

Last summer, Student Fellows in the RSLC had the chance to explore their public interest passions while gaining legal experience, building their network, and supporting rural residents in need. Selected from 446 applications, the 2020 class of RSLC Student Fellows included 35 students who worked at 31 LSC-funded civil legal aid organizations to provide legal assistance to people in rural areas affected by the pandemic

All Student Fellows began their work remotely to support the efforts of their host organizations, helping clients virtually through video conferencing, online intakes, and over phone and email. Toward the end of the summer, a handful of students were able to have various in-person interactions with supervisors and other individuals.

Collectively, Student Fellows served more than 10,000 hours, assisting 720 individuals on a range of issue areas including housing, tribal law, family law, and responding to the opioid crisis. Among these cases, students served 134 individuals dealing with a COVID-19-related problem.

It was by far the most positive internship experience I have had, and I would recommend to any law student.

Anna Michel /
2020 RSLC Student Fellow

In addition to direct legal services, Student Fellows in the 2020 class participated in 122 outreach events and created or expanded more than 125 collaborations with community partners.

At West Tennessee Legal Services (WTLS), 2020 RSLC Student Fellow Malaysha Seals conducted a legal clinic for 30 organizations about housing evictions and the CARES Act, in turn helping those who were at risk of being evicted. She developed outreach to faith-based communities in the 17-county, largely rural, service area, which included on-demand and live video training for organizations. This type of outreach and training had never been done before, and was necessary due to the restraints in reaching individuals during the pandemic.

Following their summer of service, 100% of Student Fellows felt that their legal knowledge increased from their Fellowships. Additionally, 80% of students stated that their interest in working with rural communities increased from this experience.

“It was by far the most positive internship experience I have had, and I would recommend to any law student,” said Anna Michel, a 2020 RSLC Student Fellow who was hosted by Legal Services of the Hudson Valley.

Interested in having your own impact on rural communities this summer? Apply for the 2021 Rural Summer Legal Corps by 11:59 p.m. ET on February 8, 2021. 

Learn more about becoming an Equal Justice Works Fellow