Rural Legal Practice Initiative Launched with K-State

On September 30, 2016, The Rural Legal Practice Initiative (Rural Legal) was launched by Kansas State University and Washburn University School of Law to encourage interest by K-State pre-law students in legal careers in the state's rural communities. The increasing need for access to quality legal services for underserved residents in Kansas’ rural communities was the impetus for creating Rural Legal. The Kansas Department of Agriculture and Kansas Farm Bureau are also collaborators in the program.

The benefits for declared pre-law students who are accepted into Rural Legal are two-fold — awareness and preparation. "Participants in the program will gain knowledge and insight concerning the varied legal practice required of rural practitioners as well as develop an understanding of concepts and information needed to successfully complete law school," said Daralyn Gordon Arata, K-State’s coordinator of pre-law advising.

Rural Legal will provide students with experiential opportunities such as attending specialized mini-sessions on diverse legal topics; mentoring with Washburn Law alumni who practice law in rural communities; attending classes at Washburn Law; and taking individual and group immersion trips. Participants will also gain knowledge and insight about Washburn Law, and the qualifications necessary to gain admission to, and successfully complete, law school. The program also will help students transition to law school.

'Our collaboration with K-State on Rural Legal will address the imperative need to provide quality legal services to rural Kansans,' said Dean Thomas J. Romig. 'It will also encourage pre-law students to explore the variety of professional legal opportunities that await them in rural commu­nities, as many of our Washburn Law alumni have chosen.'

Washburn Law professors Shawn Leisinger, '99, and David Pierce, '77, along with other faculty and staff, will work alongside students and serve as guest speakers. On October 25, 2016, Leisinger will speak to Rural Legal students on topics such as ethical and moral issues unique to rural legal practice; and interviewing and negotiation skills. On November 10, 2016, Pierce will focus on land use issues, hydraulic fracturing, induced seismicity, and other contemporary issues lawyers encounter representing farmers, other landowners, and developers. Throughout the year, K-State faculty will provide expertise on small business development, finance, accounting, agricultural economics, and other appropriate topics.

Students who qualify can earn a Rural Legal Practice Initiative Certificate of Completion at the end of the program. The pre-professional experiential learning and considerable interdisciplinary expertise that a Rural Legal participant receives will have a lasting impact on their professional career.

Photograph: Rural Legal Practice Initiative Team

Steven Dandaneau, K-State vice provost for undergraduate studies; Daralyn Gordon Arata, K-State Office of Pre-Law Advising coordinator; Thomas Romig, Washburn University School of Law dean and professor of law; Juliann Mazachek, Washburn University interim vice president for academic affairs; Aida Alaka, Washburn University School of Law associate dean for academic affairs; and April Mason, K-State provost and senior vice president.