New UNK program to train lawyers to work in rural communities


UNK Communications

KEARNEY – A new program at the University of Nebraska at Kearney aims to train more students to become lawyers who practice in rural communities, and reduce the state’s shortage of lawyers in those communities.

“There are a lot of areas across the state that are underserved. There’s a real need for attorneys to be serving in those areas,” said Chuck Rowling, assistant professor of political science.

The Kearney Law Opportunities Program (KLOP) is a collaborative partnership between UNK and the University of Nebraska College of Law. The program recruits students from rural areas and trains them to become lawyers who will return and practice in their communities.

Chuck Rowling
Chuck Rowling

“Rural communities are in need of representation for family law, handling divorce, criminal law and other situations,” Rowling said. “Many rural communities don’t even have attorneys, or may only have one lawyer or one judge. There’s a need for multiple quality options.”

According to the Nebraska State Bar Association, 31 of Nebraska’s 93 counties have three or fewer lawyers, and 11 have no attorneys at all.

Similar to the Kearney Health Opportunities Program (KHOP), a program that has worked to bring health practitioners to rural areas the past 25 years, KLOP aims to ensure rural Nebraska areas have access to legal representation while encouraging students from those areas to pursue legal studies in order to return to their communities to meet the demand for attorneys.

Participants in the program receive their bachelor’s degrees at UNK and are then guaranteed admittance into the Nebraska College of Law. If selected to participate, students in the UNK KLOP program will receive a full tuition scholarship to UNK (for up to 125 credit hours).

Students at UNK can major in any program and have an emphasis in pre-law. They’re encouraged to take courses that emphasize law in criminal justice, political science, business and other departments. There are currently about 50 students with a pre-law emphasis at UNK.

Each semester, KLOP students and the alternates will visit University of Nebraska College of Law to participate in activities such as observing a classroom, visiting with law students and attending guest lectures.

Students participating in the program will be assigned a mentor from UNK or College of Law alumni.

Wayne State College and Chadron State College have also partnered with the UNL College of Law to offer the Rural Law Opportunities Program.


Writer: Sara Giboney, 308.865.8529,
Source: Chuck Rowling, 308.865.8171,