Albany Law School’s Rural Law Initiative to Provide Free Legal Support to Businesses in Four Upstate New York Counties

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Farms and Rural Businesses in Sullivan, Herkimer, Otsego
and Schoharie Counties to Gain Access to Legal Assistance

Through a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Albany Law School staff and students will build a pilot program bringing legal services to rural New York areas. The Rural Law Initiative (RLI) program will also expose and educate law students on the potential of rural legal practice, matching those students with legal practitioners and judges in rural New York.

Legal subject matter to be explored under this initiative will center on business creation, tax incentives, land use, environmental law, property law, small business legal practice, and state and local government law. The program will serve the counties of Sullivan, Herkimer, Otsego and Schoharie.

“The program allows a population to gain access to legal services while lowering the barriers for our graduates to practice law in rural regions,” said Alicia Ouellette, President and Dean, of Albany Law School. “We think this grant will help close the gap between the needs of the businesses and legal service providers.”

With more than 160,000 attorneys in New York State, only two percent of the small law firms are located in rural areas. The grant seeks to help draw young attorneys to the rural parts of the state, connect with established firms and learn the legal issues facing farmers and small companies.

The $115,000 grant will provide service for the four counties, and the program is looking to expand the initiative into other rural counties.

Housed inside the law school’s Government Law Center, the Rural Law Initiative will provide services through regular, in-person contact, telephone, video communication, and other media paid for by the grant. The Government Law Center will plan intensive outreach activities to reach the underserved upstate communities. The program will serve only small and startup businesses that cannot otherwise afford an attorney.

Also, the RLI will educate rural New Yorkers about their rights under the law and develop trust in the community, enhance civic engagement, promote financial literacy, foster economic empowerment, and promote and develop current and future businesses. The targeted educational programs will provide important legal information to small businesses, farmers, and particularly individuals and small farms seeking to start ancillary businesses.

Interested businesses can contact Rural Law Fellow Jeffrey Pritchard, Esq., at 518-445-3263 or jprit@albanylaw.edu.