National Jurist - March 2008 - 26
Where public interest lawyers go to law school The National Jurist ranked law schools based on the percentage of students going into public interest law, based on information from the American Bar Association. Two additional columns indicate the total amount of graduates entering the field, and the percentage of graduates pursuing government positions. View schools 51-195 in the digital magazine at www.NJPLonline.com/digitalarchive.html. marginalized populations creates a loselose situation,” Gomes said. “Attorneys are duty-bound to zealously represent their clients, but people who pursue jobs based solely on income potential rather than personal and professional satisfaction cannot give the same level of advocacy.” New federal assistance In September 2007, a new federal loan repayment program became available to students pursuing a career in public interest jobs. The College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 allows all public servants — including all government workers and non-profit employees — to have a large portion of their education debt forgiven after making reduced payments over a 10-year period. Borrowers will be able to base payments on their incomes. Starting on July 1, 2009, the law permits borrowers to limit annual debt repayment to 15 percent of discretionary income. That is, 15 percent of adjusted gross income minus 150 percent of the poverty level. (See the Q & A with Heather Jarvis of Equal Works on page 28). “For most of our students, the federal program is not going to give them as much hope as our program would,” Caminker said. “We won’t discontinue our program. What we will do is overlay our program on top of that program so they work in tandem.” Caminker said most school-based programs are more generous than those offered by the federal governments. Pennsylvania Law School Dean Michael Fitts said the law helps, but doesn’t solve the entire problem. “This act should help attract more talented people to public service, but it will not eliminate the need for law schools to have their own loan-forgiveness programs,” he said. “Law school programs might become even more targeted in their support so that we see the maximum benefit from the combination of federal, state, school and other loan-forgiveness efforts.” Regardless of how the final regulations take shape, one thing is certain: Law schools will need to become more proactive in counseling students and graduates about the various ways they can make public service an affordable career choice, Fitts said. “Having programs like this is a huge step,” Caminker said. “To recognize the continued on page 28 Information provided by the American Bar Association 26 THE NATIONAL JURIST March 2008
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