There is a big campaign — including a bus and BBQ tour — to persuade Saskatchewan law grads to look for articles in smaller centres around the province. But it seems most young lawyers want to stay close to the bright lights.
That’s why Sanjeev Anand, dean of law at the University of Saskatchewan, thinks it may be time to up the ante from sweet talk to sweetening the pot.
“We’re facing a demographic crisis,” Anand points out. “In lots of rural communities the youngest lawyers are in their late 50s. How can we attract and retain young people?”
Anand’s idea is to offer financial incentives, much like the programs now in place to bring more doctors to rural practices.
So right now he is in “very, very preliminary talks” with the Saskatchewan government, the Law Society of Saskatchewan, and the Canadian Bar Association. In return for a three-year commitment to a small-town practice, Anand says students might get a tuition rebate or perhaps forgiveness on outstanding student loans. “I could see something like that being a significant incentive for someone,” he says.
The hope is in those three years a new graduate would grow roots, perhaps meet a partner, become involved in the community, and recognize the interesting work and lucrative possibilities available to those remaining in smaller centres.
Anand plans to continue talking to all of the interested parties. He is optimistic the incentive scheme has “a real chance of tackling” the lawyer shortage outside the big cities, which is not only a persistent problem in Saskatchewan but right across the country.