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BC Bar Society proposing student debt exemption for new, rural lawyers

The BC Branch of the Canadian Bar Association wants to work out a deal with the Province that could help young lawyers and smaller communities.

The Branch wants the government to excuse 20% of student debt over five years if law grads are willing to practice in rural areas, like in the North and the Kootenays.

BC Branch President Michael Welsh says most will only apply to big city firms that can help pay off their school loans as quickly as possibly. It’s common to see graduates with more than $100,000 of student debt.

“Young law graduates do not feel financially able to take the risk to go to a small community and try to establish a law practice where it’s going to take some time to reach a point where they can earn an income.”

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Not only would this help young lawyers start their careers and increase rural development, Welsh also notes a lot of small town lawyers are older and reaching the age of retirement. This exemption program would send young lawyers to communities where legal aid is retiring.

“whether their business people or whether they’re just couples who need an advance or need a will or they get into a legal difficulty where they need assistance in court, all those people are in a situation where they don’t have those necessary services.”

Welsh says this proposal is identical to a program already in place for recent medical grads.

The Branch submitted its request at the end of July and hopes to sit down with the Provinces soon.

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