In November 2019, the Washington State Bar Association (WSBA) began focusing on the topic of “legal deserts”, areas where access to legal services and representation are limited. Shortly thereafter, the WSBA formed a rural practice project team whose primary goal was to identify ways in which the WSBA is best positioned to support the practice of law in the rural communities of Washington state. The project consisted of seven phases: 1) awareness and conception, 2) research, 3) ideation, 4) prototyping and testing, 5) budget approval, 6) implementation, and 7) ongoing evaluation. During the research phase of this project, WSBA surveyed new members and practitioners in rural communities, conducted outreach calls with individual rural practitioners, gathered information from leaders in other states, and reviewed available literature regarding the unique needs and circumstances of rural practice. The resources below were collected here for the ideation phase of this project.
As a result of the research gathered and ideation phase, the team identified a number of trends related to the benefits, barriers, and challenges facing rural practitioners and ultimately recommended that the WSBA form a standing committee to institutionalize rural practice as an organizational priority. In April 2021, the Washington State Bar Association Board of Governors approved the formation of a Small Town and Rural (STAR) Committee to build upon the work of the project team in support of rural practice in Washington State. To learn more about what the STAR Committee is undertaking or to attend a meeting, visit the STAR Committee webpage.
Because the WSBA's efforts on rural practice are now in the purview of the STAR Committee, this webpage will no longer be updated. If you have any questions about this project, please email WSBA Member Services and Engagement Manager Julianne Unite.
WSBA Rural Practice Project Plan and Timeline
Rural Practice Project Research Summaries
Rural Practice Survey Summary and Rural Practice Survey Results
Rural Practitioner Outreach Calls Summary and WSBA Rural Practice Project Outreach Calls Questions Script
Rural Practice Project Ideation Phase Resources
Prompts for Ideation Brainstorming Discussions
Prompts for Ideation Proposed Solutions Feedback Discussions
Legal Deserts: A Multi-State Perspective on Rural Access to Justice — Harvard Law Review
2020 ABA Profile of the Legal Profession — American Bar Association
Legal Deserts Threaten Justice for All in Rural America — American Bar Association
No Country for Rural Lawyers: Small-town Attorneys Still Find it Hard to Thrive — American Bar Association
Financial Aid for Attys Could Help Close Rural Justice Gap — Law360
Serving Self-Represented Litigants: A Survey Report on Self-Represented Litigant Services in Washington State Courts — Washington State Court Management Council