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Author Topic: How much do school rankings matter for a career in public interest?  (Read 3784 times)

Suzy Q

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Hi Ya'll, I'm hoping for some insight on this one:

I know that I want to do work that is in the public interest. I'm most into addressing women's / civil rights issues here in the US, and international human rights issues abroad. (Don't really see myself so much in the traditional public interest role of public defender.). I have seen a couple programs that include a focus on what I am interested in at a few really outstanding schools that might be a strech for me to get into. I've looked for "mid range" schools offering the kind of program I want, but so far the only program I've seen so far that really fits the bill of what I am looking for in terms of location and program offerings is a 4th tier school. OK, so maybe it's not that important for what I want to do to be at a top 5 school, but 4th tier, that's low! Is this going to close doors for me in any field, even the one I am interested in?

One of the biggest reasons I am attracted to this school is that it boasts a large percentage of students who are also interested in the issues that matter most to me. How important is this? Will I be able to find a community of students with similar values at most schools, or am I likely to feel isolated if I attend a school that lacks a solid focus on public intrest?

Any feedback would be appreciated.
Thx!

romancingthestone

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Re: How much do school rankings matter for a career in public interest?
« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2004, 04:29:26 PM »
I too, am exclusively interested in public interest work.  The way I look at it, I don't want to close any doors.  I may be happy at a tiny little nonprofit somewhere, or I may want to get into international diplomacy or academia.  Either way, I will be well served with the best degree I can get.  Also, I don't want to buy into the public interest ghetto thing.  More top tier grads should be doing public interest -- it raises the level of the work being done and of the prestige of a service career, which can only help the cause.  Also, most top tier schools have loan repayment programs for those who pursue public interest careers, so the low salaries don't make it impossible. 

karenw911

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Re: How much do school rankings matter for a career in public interest?
« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2004, 06:11:16 PM »
Also, most top tier schools have loan repayment programs for those who pursue public interest careers, so the low salaries don't make it impossible. 

This is the 2nd time that I've heard this about the school offering some sort of repayment program for public interest lawyers. Where is this information coming from?  All of the research that I've done shows that the hiring jurisdiction works the deal for loan repayment/forebearance, not the school itself.

Karen W.

Revenant

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Re: How much do school rankings matter for a career in public interest?
« Reply #3 on: March 25, 2004, 07:10:12 PM »
From what I've heard, loan forgiveness is a joke.  They have a limit on how much you can make to be eligible, and it's something like 35k.  For those of us making 40k, which is still dirt little in NYC... yeah, you get the picture.

Suzy Q

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Re: How much do school rankings matter for a career in public interest?
« Reply #4 on: March 25, 2004, 07:17:49 PM »
In response to Romaning the Stone "I will be well served by the best degree I can get..." Yes, very true. But here is again an element of my orginal question - What makes my degree the "best that I can get"? If I am seeking to work in the public intrest field, will I get a "better" degree from a more prestigous school that offers little emphasis on public interest issues, or from a lower ranking school that offers a program focusing almost exclusively on public interest matters?

karenw911

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Re: How much do school rankings matter for a career in public interest?
« Reply #5 on: March 26, 2004, 04:36:31 AM »
From what I've heard, loan forgiveness is a joke.  They have a limit on how much you can make to be eligible, and it's something like 35k.  For those of us making 40k, which is still dirt little in NYC... yeah, you get the picture.

Forgiveness may be a joke, but I can tell you, they bend over backwards to forebear.  Doesn't help in the long run, but sure does in the short term.

Karen W.

romancingthestone

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Re: How much do school rankings matter for a career in public interest?
« Reply #6 on: March 26, 2004, 09:32:36 AM »
Okay.  Two issues: ranking and true quality of a school and loan forgiveness. 

Karen, the programs vary from school to school.  Some of them do require very low salaries, but others have a sliding percentage scale that goes all the way up to like $50,000.  Some make the criteria just working for a nonprofit or gov. institution and don't worry about the salary.  I'm only familiar with those from Georgetown, Yale, and Cornell, but I think there is a lot of variance.  I have a lot of friends who have been well served by them, but of course it's not perfect.  For example, one yale grad friend of mine still owes 100,000 on her principle, but has been saved by this program.  However, she got pregnant and wanted to stop working, but couldn't because then her loans would start again in full and she couldn't afford it on her non profit salary.  So she worked all through her pregnancy. 

Suzy Q -- I hear you.  And I do believe that the law world's focus on ranking and reputation is pretty dumb.  I don't think the quality of law schools is as different as their perceived reputations are.  However, from everything I've heard and seen, doors do open or close for you in terms of opportunity for certain jobs based on the perception of your school's reputation.  Now I'm sure you could find some great little nonprofit that doesn't care where you went, but in case you ever wanted to go bigger and be a bigwig at the ACLU, or LCHR, or whatever, I think a higher tiered school will make a difference.


karenw911

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Re: How much do school rankings matter for a career in public interest?
« Reply #7 on: March 26, 2004, 02:38:25 PM »

Karen, the programs vary from school to school. 

So you're saying that the schools go back, retroactive from admission through graduation and, after you've successfully passed the bar and obtained a job in a qualifying public interest position, reduces your tuition that was covered by the loans you took out? How does that work with your lenders then? 

Karen W.

blizzard of ozz

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Re: How much do school rankings matter for a career in public interest?
« Reply #8 on: March 27, 2004, 03:39:44 PM »
google LRAP. or in Yale's case COAP (they have the best loan repayment program).

elo

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Re: How much do school rankings matter for a career in public interest?
« Reply #9 on: March 31, 2004, 11:47:28 PM »
Suzy Q, I think you've answered your own question. You know what you are looking for, so why let a set of numbers change your mind?

You know, it would probably be possible to craft a set of numerical ranking methodologies that would put every school in the country in the top ten, depending on what was ranked and how much weight was given to various aspects. The USNWR system, at the very best, reflects someone else's priorities. At worst, it does so badly.

Learn the law. Have fun. And maybe you can help your cause.

E.L.