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Law students interested in public service have never expected to earn top dollar, but the pressure to work in the private sector has intensified because the rising cost of law school has outpaced most other increases in the cost of living. From 1991 to 2001, median tuition at private law schools jumped 76 percent, from $12,999 to $22,870. The jump was even greater at public law schools, rising 140 percent from $3,225 to $7,738, for state residents, and 119 percent, from $8,006 to $17,538, for out-of-staters. As a result, total law school debt rose by 59 percent from a median of $53,200 in 1993 to nearly $85,000 in 2000, according to the American Bar Association’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. On top of that, most law students also carry college debt. The picture in New Jersey fits the mold. A year’s tuition and fees at Seton Hall University School of Law runs about $26,800. Out-of-staters pay about $18,000 at Rutgers-Newark and $19,600 at Rutgers-Camden. State residents pay substantially above the survey median, about $12,500 at Newark and $13,800 at Camden. The debt burden in New Jersey is a bit below the study’s total but is still high. Seton Hall spokeswoman Christine Quinn says about 80 percent of students take out law school loans and incur indebtedness by graduation of about $66,220. Rutgers-Newark reports a similar rate of borrowing but a lower total debt of $55,355. Stephen Ball, assistant director of career services at Rutgers Law School-Camden, does not have precise figures but says “virtually every student I talk to is financing their law school education through student loans” and “the most typical number I hear is $50,000 plus for law school alone.” The result is fewer students entering public service. “I can’t tell you how many students I talk to who say they came to law school to do [public service] but find they cannot and have even a minimally decent life,” says Ball. John Jacobi, a professor at Seton Hall University School of Law, says it is “a problem we have wrestled with in this law school over the last 10 years.” Seton Hall reports 2.5 percent of the class of 2002 choosing public interest work and 4.16 percent taking government jobs compared with 40 percent going to private firms. The largest group, almost 42 percent, clerked for judges. The figures for Rutgers-Newark for the class of 2001 are 1 percent for public interest jobs, 9 percent for government work, 50 percent for private firms and 26 percent for clerkships. Similarly, only 1 percent of Rutgers-Camden’s 2001 graduates went into public service, 7 percent into government work, 33 percent to firms and almost half to clerkships. None of the three schools tracked graduates’ post-clerkship jobs. GOOD RAP ON ‘LRAP’ The recent National Association for Law Placement survey’s foremost recommendation is that law schools increasing and improve Loan Repayment Assistance Programs, which help graduates who take low-paying public service jobs. All three New Jersey schools are already moving in that direction. The Rutgers-Newark LRAP, in effect since 1997, covered the entire debt payments for 10 graduates from the class of 2001, up from partial coverage for seven class of 2000 graduates. Frances Bouchoux, associate dean of career services, expects the program to do more in the coming year, boosted by a $1 million anonymous donation last March. The Rutgers-Newark program is funded through a $25 per semester student fee and is open to those in qualifying jobs making less than $42,000 a year. Seton Hall voted to adopt an LRAP at the end of last year, says Jacobi. He was part of a committee of students, faculty and administrators who devised a formula that repays loans up to $10,000 a year based on salary and debt load. With the aim not just to lure debt-laden graduates into public-service work but to keep them there, the first-year assistance money is made up entirely of loans, shifting to grants by the fifth year and continuing as long as income requirements are met. “Those who choose to stay for the long term have a qualitatively different need for support,” says Jacobi. Deborah King, director of career services at Seton Hall, says the LRAP has already had an impact, with more students taking public-interest jobs than last year because they know the LRAP is available. Rutgers-Camden also expects to approve an LRAP this year and have it in place for the class of 2004, says Ball. Details are being worked out, he adds. The Community Health Law Project has hired several graduates of out-of-state law schools with LRAPs, including one from Tulane. Her salary was cut a bit so she could meet Tulane’s LRAP criteria, says Garwin. The Community Health Law Project recently decided to start its own LRAP to supplement its $38,000 to $39,000 starting salaries. It will not provide “big bucks” but “it might be enough for someone on the fence,” says Garwin. Eve Klothen, the director of pro bono and public-interest activities at Rutgers-Camden, says state and federal governments as well as employers and law schools need to step in with LRAPs. “It is in everybody’s interest to have a cadre of public-interest lawyers,” she says. At least seven states have authorized LRAPS, but only a few have provided funding, including Maryland and North Carolina, says Sheila Siegel Ketcham, a spokeswoman for Equal Justice Works, one of the survey sponsors, which was formerly known as the National Association for Public Interest Law. The survey also urges creation of scholarship programs, enhanced outreach to college students by public-service employers and other measures.

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