A person’s ZIP code shouldn’t dictate their access to legal services, especially when facing life-changing challenges in court. Unfortunately, for many rural communities across the country, a shortage of talented lawyers means that residents are forced to travel hundreds of miles to find legal assistance.
It’s paramount that we fill in the resource gap for rural communities, so that everyone has access to justice—not just those near metropolitan areas. The Rural Summer Legal Corps (RSLC) works to do just that, by placing 35 talented law students at legal services organizations throughout the country, where they spend eight to ten weeks addressing the needs of rural residents.
A collaboration between Equal Justice Works and the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), the Rural Summer Legal Corps gives law students, called Student Fellows, the unique opportunity to explore their passion for public interest while gaining valuable legal skills through hands-on experience.
In 2019, RSLC Student Fellows assisted 2,118 individuals on a broad range of legal services, including family matters, public benefits services, and housing matters. Collectively, they dedicated 2,387 hours to direct legal services for rural communities. In addition to direct legal services, the Student Fellows participated in 148 legal outreach events and developed 100 fact sheets or outreach/training materials.
Following their summer of service, 90% of Student Fellows felt that they were more likely to work or volunteer as a public interest attorney because of this experience. Additionally, 75% of Student Fellows were “extremely interested” or “very interested” in continuing to serve clients in rural areas.
[RSLC] made me want to help provide legal services to individuals in financial need throughout my career, either full time or pro-bono.
Joseph Baxter /
2019 RSLC Student Fellow, Legal Aid Services of Oregon
“When an individual has few or no financial means to buffer them against society, the legal issues they encounter involve questions of their most basic rights and protecting those rights protects the most fundamental rights of everyone,” Joseph added.
Everyone, regardless of where they live, deserves access to civil legal assistance when in need. In just one summer, the 2019 RSLC Student Fellows made remarkable progress in filling the legal service gap in rural and isolated communities.
Applications for the 2020 Rural Summer Legal Corps are currently being accepted until 11:59 p.m. EST on February 10, 2020. For more information about program eligibility and requirements, please visit here.