Kathryn Rand is dean and Floyd B. Sperry professor of law at the University of North Dakota School of Law and co-director of the Institute for the Study of Tribal Gaming Law and Policy, both in Grand Forks. Before starting her career in education, Rand served as assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Wisconsin. She taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee before joining UND in 2000.
Q: WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO ENTER LAW?
A: My dad, Tom Rand, was the pre-law adviser at UND when I was an undergraduate. I was an anthropology major, and I think he wanted to make sure I’d be employable. More seriously, I was drawn to the idea that law impacts every single person, every single day. The more we improve our laws and legal system, the more we improve people’s lives.
Q: WHAT IS YOUR LARGEST CHALLENGE AS DEAN OF THE UND SCHOOL OF LAW?
A: Living up to the leadership that North Dakota’s law school deserves. As the state’s only law school, we have a unique obligation to serve our bench and bar, communities, and people. We also have truly outstanding students, faculty, staff and alumni who give heart and soul to our law school. For our state and for our people, it’s job No. 1 to be the best law school we can be.
Q: HOW DID YOU CHOOSE THE AREAS YOU SPECIALIZE IN?
A: After law school, I worked on a case that involved a Wisconsin tribe and how the tribe’s gaming operation impacted tribal members. I started thinking about how the law could maximize the positive impacts — economic development, tribal government funding, job creation — while minimizing the negative impacts — problem gambling, over-reliance on gaming as an economic driver, crime — that are associated with legalized gaming generally. From there, I began writing with my frequent co-author, Steve Light, on Indian gaming law and policy issues.
Q: WHAT LED YOU TO A CAREER IN EDUCATING FUTURE LAWYERS?
A: Both in college and in law school, I had professors who inspired me. I hoped to “pay it forward” by becoming a teacher. And my dream was to teach at UND School of Law, as the university has given my family and me so much through education — in fact, my grandfather was a UND Law graduate.
Q: WHAT CHALLENGES FACE THE LEGAL INDUSTRY AND WHAT ROLE CAN THE LAW SCHOOL PLAY IN MEETING THOSE CHALLENGES?
A: In our state and region, we need more lawyers to serve our rural communities. In North Dakota last year, three counties had no attorneys, six counties had only one attorney, and seven counties had only two attorneys. In these 16 counties, there are 20 attorneys to serve more than 54,000 people living across 19,000 square miles (over a quarter of the state’s land area). This shortage of rural attorneys creates a justice gap — meaning that people do not have access to affordable legal services.
Along with our State Bar Association and state courts, we created the Rural Justice Program, which provides financial support to law students who work in rural North Dakota. Students who spend a summer working in a rural community can build professional and personal networks, experience the quality of life, and begin to put down roots, all of which make it more likely that the student will choose a rural employment opportunity after graduation. As more solo and small firm practitioners reach retirement age, and as more attorneys gravitate toward larger cities, it is important to connect law students to rural communities. With support from the Edson and Margaret Larson Foundation, we’ve been able to expand the Rural Justice Program. Next steps include the possibility of a loan-forgiveness program modeled after South Dakota’s Rural Attorney Recruitment Program.