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Rural MT Legal Aid Program Ranks Among Most Innovative Nationwide

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Wednesday, November 3, 2021   

HELENA, MT -- A legal services program in Montana has been selected as one of the most innovative justice programs in the country.

The Rural Justice Collaborative Advisory Council chose the Rural Incubator Project for Lawyers, part of the Montana Legal Services Association, as part of its inaugural class of innovation sites.

Meghan Scott, former coordinator of the project for two years in Montana, explained the program's objective.

"Montana Legal Services established the Rural Incubator Project for Lawyers to help address the justice gap that prevents low- and moderate-income Montanans from achieving justice, particularly in the underserved and rural communities," Scott recounted.

The program began in 2018. Many rural communities lack affordable legal aid or the resources to receive it. Scott said fellows in the two-year program have the capacity to help this population. A lack of reliable internet is among the common obstacles for rural residents.

Tara Kunkel, executive director of Rulo Strategies, which partnered with the National Center for State Courts to oversee the Rural Justice Collaborative initiative, said access to justice is an important aspect of the Rural Incubator Project for Lawyers, and one of the reasons why it was selected. Kunkel said projects were chosen that offer replicable solutions.

"The big focus of the Rural Justice Collaborative is being able for rural communities to learn from other rural communities and solve problems that are unique to rural justice systems," Kunkel remarked.

The Rural Incubator Project for Lawyers was one of nine rural innovation sites chosen from around the country. Others include the Rural Attorney Recruitment Program in nearby South Dakota. Kunkel added there will be future rounds to select more programs.

Disclosure: Montana Legal Services Association contributes to our fund for reporting on Civil Rights, Human Rights/Racial Justice, Poverty Issues, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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