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Continued investment in rural legal program

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From Foundation Focus - Summer 2019

Cherilyn Hearn has been spending her summer days in Hays, Kansas, drafting memos, doing research and sitting in on hearings at the local courthouse. She is one of 18 Washburn law students participating in the Dane G. Hansen Foundation rural externship program this summer.

Washburn University School of Law has been offering a robust summer externship program as part of its Rural Law Program since 2017 thanks to a grant from the Dane G. Hansen Foundation. The goal of the program is to provide students with opportunities to experience life and practice law in a rural community, as well as to interest them in pursuing careers in rural Kansas.

Law students are placed in communities during the summer where they learn from attorney-supervisors about the unique needs of rural areas. The Dane G. Hansen Foundation service area includes 26 counties in northwest Kansas. Hearn is an extern at Glassman, Bird, Powell, L.L.C. in Hays.

A recent additional gift exceeding $500,000 will continue the program and support scholarships for students to pay for living expenses, tuition, fees and more. Many students would not be able to have such an experience without that gift.

In its third year, there are more than 40 attorneys who have expressed an interest in hosting an extern. Hearn, a San Diego native who has lived in rural Kansas for the last 15 years, has had a great experience going from big city life to a rural area.

“There are a lot of stereotypes about rural communities that really need to be challenged,” Hearn said. “I think being here has just shown me what can be done, that there are not as many limitations as some might expect in a smaller community.”

As word of the opportunities that exist in northwest Kansas spreads, the Hansen Foundation hopes to see a resurgence in new attorneys seeking permanent positions in its service area.

“The trustees could not be more pleased with the externship program,” said Brien Stockman, a trustee with the Dane G. Hansen Foundation and an attorney in the rural town of Logan, Kansas. “We have been especially pleased to see students who completed the externship take positions in northwest Kansas, where there are many opportunities for them to succeed.”

Hearn agrees she is gaining valuable lessons she will use in her career.

“I would recommend the Dane Hansen fellowships to any law student looking to gain some great knowledge during their summer,” Hearn said. “We are just as busy and fast-paced, dealing with relevant, developing topics in the justice system today.”

Kansas Farm Bureau Supports Ag Law

Recognizing the importance of preparing its students to effectively represent the farming and ranching communities, and the agribusiness enterprises that support agriculture, the Washburn University School of Law has assembled an impressive program and group of professors to serve its students, alumni and the lawyers and tax specialists who deal with agricultural law and taxation issues on a daily basis.

A recent $35,000 gift from the Kansas Farm Bureau Foundation to support Washburn Law’s rural law efforts will help ensure the availability of effective legal representation in rural communities. Formed in 1988, the Kansas Farm Bureau Foundation has awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars to organizations providing scholarships and grants to initiatives that improve agriculture and the quality of life in rural Kansas.

“Ensuring professional services in rural communities like doctors, veterinarians, health care and legal is a driving force behind Kansas Farm Bureau’s support of the Washburn Rural Law Clinic and Professor Roger McEowen’s work to equip a next generation of practitioners to meet the needs across Kansas,” said Terry Holdren, jd ’97, chief executive officer for Kansas Farm Bureau.

McEowen, the Kansas Farm Bureau professor of agricultural law and taxation, conducts approximately 80 seminars annually across the United States for farmers, agricultural business professionals, lawyers and other tax professionals. He also conducts two radio programs each airing twice a month and can be heard across the Midwest and online.

Sen. Bob Dole bronze statue on campus

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