Drake University Law School has launched an incubator program called the Rural Access to Justice Initiative (RAJI). The program will offer recent Drake Law graduates a pathway to solo or small firm practice in rural Iowa towns.

“We hope this program will help address barriers for new attorneys in rural Iowa,” said Jerry Anderson, dean of Drake Law School. “In addition to providing good job opportunities for our graduates, RAJI will give students an incentive to choose Drake Law if they want a rural practice, especially in combination with our Agricultural Law Center and clinical programs.”

RAJI will support recent graduates in the following ways:

  • Reduce the costs of setting up a practice through donated or low-cost office space, reduced overhead, and access to case management software
  • Offer mentorship from local Drake Law alumni
  • Provide support from the Law School, including practice-oriented programming and professional advice
  • Assist in obtaining initial cases for the firm
  • Provide a start-up stipend in return for dedicated pro bono hours

RAJI was funded by Brian (LW’95) and Mary Lohse and has received in-kind contributions and assistance from Joe Crookham, LW’68, and Diane Crookham-Johnson, LW’10. Pat Houlihan, LW’82, Clinician in Residence at Drake Law School, will direct the program.

Two recent graduates—Justin Choate, LW’17, and Madison “Maddy” Warder, LW’17—began this fall at an initial placement site in Oskaloosa, Iowa. The Crookham family donated office space, and Randy DeGeest, LW’78, retired district court judge of District 8A of Iowa, will offer mentorship.

Houlihan plans to expand the program to additional sites after gaining experience through the pilot program.

“The population of attorneys in rural Iowa is aging, and there’s a shortage of young attorneys going to those communities. This means some Iowans may not receive legal help,” Houlihan said. “RAJI was designed to address Iowans’ access to justice by encouraging new attorneys to set up their law practices in communities where attorneys are needed.”

For more information, contact Pat Houlihan at patricia.houlihan@drake.edu.

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