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Public Interest Law Gets an Ivy League Boost

By George Khoury, Esq. on November 16, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

When most people envision law students at Ivy league schools, they don't see the stereotypical unwashed, Birkenstock wearing, granola eating, public interest lawyers-of-tomorrow who aren't in it for the money, you know, like you'd expect to see at UC Santa Cruz.

Traditionally, top ranking law schools focused on producing top BigLaw candidates, but as these jobs have become even more exclusive and out of reach than before, more and more Ivy league law grads are looking to public interest positions. Unfortunately, due to the always-increasing cost of legal education, those positions can be untenable financially. But luckily for the law students at Columbia, the University has decided to inject $4.5 million into a few of their programs to help their students pursuing a public interest path.

Financial Assistance Assistance

Basically, Columbia's cash injection will be used to give public interest law grads what they need most, cash. The money will be used to create a "public service bridge loan" which would be forgivable similar to a federal student loan, but with a little more added certainty than the federal student loan forgiveness program provides. Additionally, the public service bridge loans will provide for a higher income allowance and dependent allowances, which will help grads maintain eligibility for forgiveness.

Columbia University will also be creating a fellowship for grads interested in public interest and public service.

Public Interest Law

For many law students, public interest law may be more realistic of an option than they may have been otherwise led to believe. Thanks to income based loan repayment plans (those still exist at least, right?), it is a potentially viable career path, though you won't be living the high-roller lifestyle.

Fortunately though, if you do opt for the public interest/non-profit law career, you can at least hope for more stability and a better work environment than your BigLaw counterparts, as well as more free time to actually live your life (and also you get to feel good about the work you do ... hopefully).

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