The UA Little Rock Bowen School of Law has selected its 2020 cohort for its Rural Practice Incubator Project.
Bowen graduates Cynthia Aikman and Abraham “Sam” Keefer will benefit from the project’s training, support, and resources for the next 18 months as they build their own small-town law practices.
The Rural Practice Incubator Project aims to develop more options for legal representation in rural counties with a shortage of lawyers. According to the American Bar Association’s most recent Profile of the Legal Profession, Arkansas has a ratio of 2.1 attorneys per 1,000 residents. Citizens in many rural counties have little to no access to legal representation.
“We are excited to welcome Ms. Aikman and Mr. Keefer into the incubator,” said Theresa Beiner, dean of the Bowen law school. “They are passionate about the areas they call home and committed to helping their neighbors and fellow residents. We look forward to helping them achieve their goals.”
Aikman plans to practice in Bluffton, Arkansas, where she grew up and her family has lived for eight generations. Aikman owns a home there and spent weekends there during law school. She is active in the community and is working to retain and expand community services.
Aikman is retired from the U.S. Army at the rank of major. After her retirement, she chose to go to law school, in part, because she was frustrated by the lack of services and resources available to her rural community. Her time at Bowen widened her perspective on the critical need for access to justice in her community.
“The rural, impoverished, and uneducated are discriminated against in nearly every aspect of their lives,” she said. “I want to assist my community, but I also want to educate its members in ways they can help themselves.”
Aikman will focus her practice on the Fourche Valley, a 32-mile area with few amenities, no nearby facilities, no cell service, and no attorneys. The closest law offices are 30-60 miles away.
Keefer plans to practice in Sharp County, focusing primarily on Cave City and Ash Flat. He grew up in Poughkeepsie, Arkansas, where he lives on his family’s farm.
Cave City does not currently have an attorney to serve its approximately 2,000 residents. Ash Flat has an aging attorney population.
“I’ve spoken to local attorneys,” Keefer said. “The consensus is that a younger attorney is greatly needed in this area… My family and I are used to a student income and lifestyle. We’re committed to spending the next few years working to build a law practice.”
Keefer, who served in the Marine Corps from 2001-2006, graduated from Bowen in 2020 and passed the bar this summer.