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USD Law Graduate Committed to Rural Legal Practice

Photo of Rachelle Norberg. Graduating USD law student Rachelle Norberg will take over the firm Gunvordahl Law Office in Burke, South Dakota.

VERMILLION, S.D. – Rachelle Norberg may have just graduated from the University of South Dakota School of Law; however, after already taking over the law firm and title company Gunvordahl Law Office in Burke, South Dakota, she’s well on her way to joining the ranks of lawyers around the state committed to rural legal practice.

Norberg earned her bachelor’s degree from USD in 2015, majoring in political science and economics. Her initial experience in Vermillion convinced her to stay for law school.

“I already loved the community of Vermillion,” Norberg said. “And I knew USD Law was going to let me do a lot of different things than just focus on one area.”

Norberg also said USD’s expertise in Indian law attracted her to the program.

“USD is one of just a handful of law schools in the country to offer an Indian law specialization. It was important to me to take Indian law classes and better understand state-tribal relations and the differences Indian law has to any other jurisdiction,” she said.

At USD, Norberg has excelled in a variety of student groups and activities. She was the president of the Women in Law group her second year, and is the current president of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Board team. Additionally, she’s active on the trial team, the Native American Law Student Association, and serves as a teaching assistant.

While she’s enjoyed her time in Vermillion, she’s excited to return to Gregory County where she grew up.

She said the opportunity fell into place after Jack Gunvordahl, the principal partner at Gunvordahl Law Office decided to retire after 40 years of practice. Norberg had interned at the firm after her first year.

“I really didn’t expect for this to be the plan, but I realized this was my chance to return home,” Norberg said. “I’m excited to get involved in the community.”

Norberg is also officially enrolled in the Project Rural Practice program sponsored by the South Dakota Bar Association and State of South Dakota to assist rural areas with legal services. As part of her agreement with Gregory County, Norberg will take on criminal defense matters–work she became familiar with while interning for the Rapid City State’s Attorney’s office.

Norberg said Gunvordahl will continue to assist her through the transition. She also said she’ll rely on the firm’s experienced staff as she begins to manage the practice; however, she is not intimidated by the challenge.

“I’ve met so many great mentors and friends at USD,” Norberg said. “I feel ready.”


USD’s Knudson School of Law prepares students for leadership in the administration of justice in South Dakota, including in rural areas where the demand is great, and for private practice, public service, business and other law-related endeavors anywhere. Its joint degree program allows students to also earn one of nine master’s degrees within the traditional three-year law curriculum, which includes course tracks in business, commercial, constitutional, criminal, employment, environmental, Indian, real estate and tax law as well as civil litigation and estate planning.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Hanna DeLange
USD News