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Rural Attorney Recruitment Program

The Rural Attorney Recruitment Program is a legislatively created program to assist counties and municipalities in recruiting attorneys to the more rural areas of the state.

Under the program, the state of North Dakota, the North Dakota State Bar Association and a participating community agree to pay an eligible attorney an incentive of $45,000 to work full-time in the participating community and to live within close proximity to the community for 5 years.

In 2022, the application period for communities will be February 1 - March 31.  After 2022, the annual application period for communities will be October 1 - November 30.  The required elements of the community application are found in Supreme Court Administrative Rule 62, section 2: community applications should be mailed to:

Office of the State Court Administrator
ATTN Rural Attorney Recruitment Program
600 E. Boulevard, Mailstop 180
Bismarck ND 58505-0530

There is an open recruitment period for attorneys, who may apply at any time through the Court’s online application process.

You can download contract template here

Rural Attorney Recruitment Program - Guidelines

List of Eligible Communities

List of Eligible Lawyers


Community applications are limited to a specific period of time because they are reviewed by a temporary committee of three. Having a set period of time focuses the work of the committee and prevents the court from having to appoint multiple committees during the year.

For attorneys, unless there is something of concern revealed in the application process, applications are automatically approved if they meet the minimum qualifications.

County populations must be 16,000 or fewer based on the latest national census.

Municipality populations must be 5,000 or fewer based on the latest national census.

On the North Dakota Court System website there is a map of the judicial districts and a list of the presiding judge for each district. Click on the following link and then move your cursor over the map to see the judicial districts. Once you locate your judicial district, clicking on it will bring up the name and address of the presiding judge.

A “participating county or municipality” is a county or municipality that is providing payment for services under the rural attorney recruitment program. A “participating community” is the geographical area surrounding a participating county or municipality. The frame of reference for this geographical area is not defined and could be co-extensive with a county, group of counties, judicial district, general service area, number of miles, or some other point of reference that the parties have agreed on.

“Close proximity” is not defined in the rule but may be interpreted as a reasonable commute to the participating attorney’s law office.

While an attorney may choose to locate his or her residence outside the specific county or municipality that is providing payment for their services under this program, the attorney must establish a law office in the specific municipality or county and reside and practice law full time in the general geographic area.

Yes, a city or county may reach an agreement with other cities or counties to share costs and services and submit a joint application for the program. The application should include the specifics of the arrangement the communities have agreed to regarding how much time the attorney will be expected to serve in each community and how the annual costs will be divided between the communities.

While we encourage a community and attorney to reach a mutual agreement prior to applying for the program, the application and approval process for each differs so it is not possible to file a joint application. However, the community application should note the agreement between the parties.

Communities and attorneys are encouraged to review the list of eligible communities and attorneys and come to a mutual agreement. However, the supreme court may assign an eligible attorney to a community and request that the community enter into an agreement with the attorney.

There is no informal complaint process available. If the community and the attorney are unable to resolve differences, the only options are to enforce the contract through appropriate legal measures or to file a complaint with the Disciplinary Board.

The attorney should follow the contract provisions for early termination. These may include a requirement to provide a minimum number of days’ notice, re-payment of certain expenses or forfeiture of planned payments.

Contact the party owing the payment to determine if the lack of payment was an oversight. If payment is still not forthcoming, contact the office of the state court administrator. That office will notify all parties to the contract of the unpaid obligation and arrange for a discussion between all parties. If the parties are unable to reach a resolution on the matter, the participating attorney may seek enforcement of the contract through appropriate legal measures.

At any time an attorney may send a letter to the office of the state court administrator stating that they would like to be removed from the roster.

Alternatively, an attorney may choose not to file the annual statement of continuing interest and that will automatically result in the attorney being removed from the list after February 1.

At the direction of the county or city commission, the county or city auditor may send a letter to the office of the state court administrator stating that the community would like to be removed from the roster.

Yes. The only residency requirement is that the attorney reside “in close proximity” to the participating “county or municipality.”

No. The program is open to any attorney, regardless of whether they intend to work, or are already working in, the private or public sector.

Yes. The program is intended to recruit attorneys to rural locations but also to retain those attorneys who are already working in rural areas.

If the attorney is employed full-time in the public sector and their employer’s insurance covers the equivalent liabilities that malpractice insurance would, the attorney does not need to carry malpractice insurance.

List of Eligible Communities

List of Eligible Lawyers