Number of West Central IL Counties Classified as ‘Legal Deserts’

By Benjamin Cox on February 2, 2024 at 11:46am

A number of West Central Illinois counties are considered “legal deserts.”

Former Illinois State Bar Association President Dennis Orsey says a recent report shows about a third of Illinois’ counties lack practicing attorneys and about 10% with less five attorneys: “In Illinois, we’re no different than other large states with large urban population centers. These centers tend to attract a majority of the practicing attorneys. In Illinois, of our 102 counties, we have 13 counties with 5 or fewer practicing attorneys.”

Sarah Taylor, immediate past chair of the Rural Practice Initiative for the Illinois State Bar Association, says many new law graduates choose to work at larger firms in urban areas that offer higher salaries to help pay off student loans quicker. The Illinois State Bar Association has started a Rural Practice Fellowship Program to help ease some of the problems with student loans and attract more attorneys to rural portions of the state.

Under a National Center for State Courts study, Brown, Cass, Scott, and Calhoun counties are considered to be legal deserts with 10 or fewer practicing attorneys. Schuyler and Menard are on the brink with 6-10, and Greene and Jersey are under advisory levels designated at 11-20.