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Author Topic: For those considering Public Interest  (Read 2882 times)

ZinnMaster

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For those considering Public Interest
« on: February 25, 2006, 08:33:04 PM »
Not sure where to post this...

For those considering making a career in public interest (such as USAID, UN, or some other organization), I was wondering the career paths you are considering. For instance, will you:

A: Graduate and take a public interest job you enjoy and suffer through the $30,000 salary.
B: Choose the school that offered you money so that taking the $30,000 job doesn't hurt so much.
C: Take a firm job that you despise for a couple of years while you pay back your loans and  then move into public interest.
D: Find that rare decent paying public interest job.

I, without question, want to eventually do some public interest work, so I am curious as to the various career approaches people are taking. Thanks!
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Law2k6

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Re: For those considering Public Interest
« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2006, 11:27:53 PM »
Me too. .... It's a tough call. I've decided to go to a top school because it will open more doors, including doors for better government/public service type jobs. Besides that, I'll also make friends with people who will be future leaders, rich lawyers, etc. that might support whatever public interest endeavor I pursue later in life.

I will either do B or C. I calculated that I could borrow the entire cost of law school and have it paid off in probably 3-4 years if I work in Big Law (faster if I budget well/spend next to nothing/live in a ghetto apartment). I'm probably willing to do that if I have to. However, if I find a government/public interest job that pays enough to live on while repaying student loans, I am likely to do that instead. I'd rather be poor and do what I want than do what I can't stand for a few years and then do what I want and be not poor. But I figure I need $65k/year to afford the loan payments (unless I live someplace super expensive like NYC, which I hope to avoid).

I guess the short answer is: if I can find a job doing what I want or something close to what I want that pays $65k/year, I'll do that. Otherwise, I'll do big law for a few years to pay off the loans and then do what I want.

What sort of public interest work would you like to do? (You can PM me if you don't want to post such specifics.)
U.Va. Law, J.D. 2009

gertrude

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Re: For those considering Public Interest
« Reply #2 on: February 26, 2006, 12:07:34 AM »
I'm also probably going to go with the best school instead of the best deal, with the only qualification being that if the difference in prestige/programs is negligible, I'll choose the school with the best LRAP. I will most likely be doing A or C off your list. Biglaw just doesn't appeal to me, even if it's only for a couple of years. As far as what type, appellate law with a federal public defender's office seems cool, but I'm not pinning myself down just yet. The bonus is that a lot of the government jobs actually have starting salaries in the 45-65k range, which isn't so bad.

stacy

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Re: For those considering Public Interest
« Reply #3 on: February 26, 2006, 09:38:38 AM »
I was just talking about this with my dad yesterday (while filling out financial aid forms, lol).  Meels, I'm totally with you on this one.  When I was deciding where to apply, I went more with the "go to the best school you can get into so long as it has a good LRAP" scheme.  There's a part of me that wonders if "go to the best school that gives you a ton of merit aid" would have been a better option--Brooklyn, for example had a lot of course and clinics that worked well with my options, I liked the people I met there, and I would have been a good candidate for scholarships. 

Like you, I doubt firm life's for me.  I simply don't know if I could do it and not get fired--and if I could, I don't know if I'd be able to walk away from it to go do PI.  I'm interning one day a week at a rather atypical firm which only serves low-income clients...everyone works 8:30 to 5:30, there's no paralegals so even partners make photocopies, etc...if I could find a place like that, or if I could get a job in the affordable housing division of a major firm (amazingly, some places have this) I'd definitely consider it.  I'm also interested in govt work...seems like a nice middle ground both salary and pressure-wise. 
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reutynwer

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Re: For those considering Public Interest
« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2006, 09:33:59 PM »
my answer: probably A, D if I can find something good...

I'm pretty much plannin to go to the best school I can (not wholly determined by rankings, of course), and to then rely on those loan repayment programs to keep me from starving in the immediate post-grad years.

I think suffering through low pay is relative too; I'm not used to seeing a lot of money, in my own bank account nor in those of my parents, so a $30,000 - $40,000 salary wouldn't kill me too much...as long as there was a chance for advancement over the years, and as long as I didn't think too often about the $100,000+ I could be pullin in elsewhere.

JamesD

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Re: For those considering Public Interest
« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2006, 09:52:19 PM »
I always thought that working for the Innocence Project looked amazing.  Then, I learned how much they paid their staff attorneys.  I cannot attend law school, and than accept a job where I am making significantly less than I do now.  $35,000 a year, particularly in an urban area, is not very much money at all.

It is lamentable, but I will not be taking some public interest jobs that look most interesting, noble, or worthwhile to me.  I believe so deeply in what the Innocence Project does, but I am not in a position where I can afford to accept such a salary.

It is my hope that we can all find a middle-ground; that we can find jobs where we do work that we love; work that fuels our passions; and work that also provides us with a decent standard of living.

I am not willing to sell my soul and work 80 hours a week to make 125k at a large firm.  Conversely, I am not willing to accept a public interest job that pays 35k--- doing so would leave me broke and bitter.  I think it is a sallient notion that most of us will need to find a job that makes us feel valued; part of feeling valued is being adequately compensated for the work that you do.


rhombot

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Re: For those considering Public Interest
« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2006, 10:41:49 PM »
i'm definitely going with B. A is painful, C is dangerous, and D is too uncertain.

there are many tales of people who intended to go to work for our corporate masters "just for a couple of years, to pay off the debt", but became so accustomed to the comforts that they got sucked in. i'd hate to lose my soul like that.

germane to the topic: the national lawyers' guild disorientation handbook for law students: http://nlg.rso.wisc.edu/pubs/disorientation2004.pdf


*** this post contains the kind of useful discussion you would receive more of if LSD had a public interest/social justice board. sound off here: http://www.lawschooldiscussion.org/prelaw/index.php/topic,52699.0.html ***
case '09

gwenkern

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Re: For those considering Public Interest
« Reply #7 on: February 28, 2006, 08:14:01 AM »
It really is good to see posts like this.  It reaffirms my faith that I'll be able to find people at law school who share similar philosophies regarding civic duty. 

*laughs*

Yeah, I'm a little surprised by the general slant of comments on this thread.  I want to do public interest law because it's what I want to do.  Therefore, I'm only considering going to schools which either pay my way or will give me a significant hand paying off my loans.  Right now I make $21k a year gross.  If I made $35k, after taxes that would be an extra $750 a month, which would allow me to live comfortably enough if I didn't have to make loan payments.

I'm looking for my quality of life to improve post-law-school because I love what I do, not because I make lots of money.
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queencruella

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Re: For those considering Public Interest
« Reply #8 on: February 28, 2006, 08:18:54 AM »
It really is good to see posts like this.  It reaffirms my faith that I'll be able to find people at law school who share similar philosophies regarding civic duty. 

*laughs*

Yeah, I'm a little surprised by the general slant of comments on this thread.  I want to do public interest law because it's what I want to do.  Therefore, I'm only considering going to schools which either pay my way or will give me a significant hand paying off my loans.  Right now I make $21k a year gross.  If I made $35k, after taxes that would be an extra $750 a month, which would allow me to live comfortably enough if I didn't have to make loan payments.

I'm looking for my quality of life to improve post-law-school because I love what I do, not because I make lots of money.

I've also had a plethora of jobs that paid less than $35K in a relatively expensive area. I knew how to budget, so when there was something I really wanted to do or buy, I budgeted for it and was usually able to do it with no problem.

Law2k6

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Re: For those considering Public Interest
« Reply #9 on: February 28, 2006, 08:49:37 AM »
I'm curious why people throw around $30k and $35k a lot. I will confess my relative ignorance, so maybe that's a more realistic PI income. But, looking at UVA, for example, USNWR lists the average starting salary in the public sector as $53k. If I understand it correctly, their LRAP program will pay the difference in your loan payments that's left after you pay half of what you make over $35k. So, $53k - ($53k - $35k)/2 = $44k. That seems like a completely livable salary. When I was a kid, my family of 5 survived on a single income of $4?k. (And I'm in my early twenties, so it's not like things were tons cheaper back then.)

Am I missing something?

I see a few viable options (in order of preference):

1. Get a public interest job that pays an average public sector starting salary. LRAP helps me pay my loans off and I live off of $44k.

2. Get a public sector job that pays > $60k (which is the LRAP cutoff at UVA) and I make my own loan payments and live off of $4?k.

3. If 1 or 2 don't work out, suck it up and work for a year or two at a big law firm and make six figures and throw $60k+/yr. at my loans. Quit after 2 years, refinance whatever remaining loans I have (probably not much), and get the kind of job I am going to law school to do.

I'm not worried about getting sucked into firm life. I have a good job now. I'm not rich or even upper-middle class by any stretch, but I have more than I need. I'm not quitting my job and going to law school to have more money. My intention is to work in the public sector and that is what I will do, even if that requires option 3. I suspect that the people that get sucked into firm life are people who weren't committed to the public interest to begin with.

It would be awesome to have a Public Interest board. It's refreshing to hear from all of you! Who would we talk to to have one added?
U.Va. Law, J.D. 2009