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The Rural Lawyer

Student reflections on impacts from the 150 Forward Focus campaign

Michael Abbott and Earnest Deines, jd '71

By: Michael Abbott, 2L, School of Law
From: 150 Forward Focus Fall 2017

The Dane G. Hansen Rural Law Program is an incredible opportunity for law students allowing them to participate in a rural law practice. I went to law school wanting to practice in a rural area, and the program allowed my family and I to know what that meant. This experience provided valuable insight into living and working in a rural setting.

I was able to see what lawyers do — and how they do it — as well as do it myself. The range of projects I worked on was incredible. I did title work, oil and gas leases, worked with estates — I even drafted part of a chicken ordinance for the City of WaKeeney, Kansas. I have encountered and worked on problems I never thought of, and this externship allowed me to use and build on the academic skills learned during my 1L year.

Moreover, it allowed my wife and me the wonderful opportunity to experience living in northwest Kansas.  This was particularly beneficial for my wife, Elizabeth, who has always lived in cities. Living in WaKeeney helped break down stigmas regarding small town life. Rather than finding WaKeeney remote and isolated, we discovered it was essentially a full-service community — only a clothing store seemed to be lacking.

Not only is WaKeeney a full-service community, but the people are wonderful. We felt very welcomed, not only by those in the legal profession — who were amazing — but by everyone. Many of the people I met were actual clients and being able serve them was another valuable and great experience.

Just as importantly, I was able to work under a veteran attorney, Earnest Deines, jd ’71, who took the time to walk me through complicated aspects of the law. I believe this program’s character helps put law students with attorneys who genuinely care about the client, their communities and by extension, the extern who may practice in the area. One cannot place a value on working with a busy and accomplished lawyer who takes time to patiently answer an extern’s questions.

This has been one of the best experiences of law school. I have been able to access a huge quantity of wisdom while discovering northwest Kansas. I know I could not have afforded to move here for the summer if not for the Dane G. Hansen Foundation. Furthermore, even if I could have, it would have been far more difficult to find a placement. This summer has been both educational and enjoyable. I am truly grateful for the generosity of Hansen Foundation and the attorneys of northwest Kansas.

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