Lincoln, Neb.: On Friday, the Rural Law Opportunities Program (RLOP) was named the 2018 American Bar Association (ABA) Brown Select Award recipient. More than 3,000 people voted to determine the winner.
The award is a component of the Louis M. Brown Award for Legal Access, which is an annual award that recognizes programs and projects that enable affordable access to legal services for those of moderate income in ways that are exemplary and replicable.
All nominees for the Louis M. Brown Award are entered in the running for the Brown Select Award, which is determined by online votes from the public. This component of the award was developed to help elevate the awareness of the Award and advance insights into the work of the nominees. The Rural Law Opportunities Program was recognized as the Brown Select winner out of 43 nominees for the Louis M. Brown Award for Legal Access.
“This program exemplifies the tremendous value our colleges bring to the State of Nebraska,” said Stan Carpenter, Chancellor of the Nebraska State College System, which includes Chadron State, Peru State, and Wayne State Colleges. “With the shortage of attorneys in rural Nebraska, this partnership benefits our students, institutions, and the community at large. We are honored to receive this prestigious award during the program’s first year of operation.”
The Rural Law Opportunities Program (RLOP) at Chadron State and Wayne State is a unique partnership with the University of Nebraska College of Law that aims to increase access to legal representation for all Nebraskans. Students from rural Nebraska are selected by each of the institutions and guaranteed a spot in the University of Nebraska College of Law if they maintain good grades in college, complete their undergraduate requirements and score well on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).
Richard Moberly, Dean of the University of Nebraska College of the Law said, “The University of Nebraska College of Law appreciates being part of a partnership focused on bringing great students into the legal profession while also helping solve the problem that Nebraska’s rural areas do not have enough lawyers.”
The undergraduate program at Wayne State and Chadron State includes mentoring from the University of Nebraska College of Law, trips to the law school, LSAT preparatory courses, and undergraduate internships. Once these students complete their law program, the hope is that they will then return to rural areas in Nebraska to practice law.
“The Brown Select Award demonstrates the widespread support Wayne State’s partnership in the Rural Law Opportunities Program has received from our community of faculty, staff, students, friends, and alumni,” said Dr. Marysz Rames, President of Wayne State. “The votes in recognition of our efforts underline our work to ensure rural Nebraska has access to adequate legal representation and a pathway to an excellent legal education. The Rural Law Opportunities Program stands as one of several components of Wayne State’s commitment to the future of Nebraska.”
Initial discussions for the RLOP program began during the summer of 2016, implementation occurred fall of 2016, and the inaugural class of RLOP candidates was welcomed this past fall 2017. Each year, Chadron State and Wayne State will select five high school seniors to participate in the RLOP program.
Kate Pope, Chadron State’s Justice Studies Project Coordinator, said, “Chadron State College has a long history of offering a quality Legal Studies education and the RLOP provides additional opportunities to our students from the day they step on campus until they graduate from law school. The Brown Select Award honors the partnership between the Nebraska State College System and the Nebraska College of Law. Chadron State College is proud to be involved with such a worthwhile program.”
The American Bar Association Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services reviews the nominations and selects the Brown Award recipient. The awards will be presented at the ABA Midyear Meeting February 2 in Vancouver, Canada. The RLOP will receive the Brown Select Award and the Chicago Bar Foundation will receive the 2018 Louis M. Brown Award. The American Bar Association will also acknowledge the British Columbia Civil Resolution Tribunal and Chi City Legal for Meritorious Recognition.
The RLOP program is modeled after the Rural Health Opportunities Program (RHOP), which for over 25 years has guaranteed a select number of Nebraska rural students admission in the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Approximately 60 percent of this program’s graduates have returned to rural Nebraska communities to practice, helping to ease shortages in rural health care providers. With 11 of Nebraska 93 counties currently having no attorneys, similar results in the new program would positively impact access to legal services for all Nebraskans.
—Rachel Henry, Nebraska State College System