Columbia Law School is bolstering its support for students interested in public interest careers with an additional $4.5 million in financial support for public interest programs over the next three years.
The new public interest push—spearheaded by Dean Gillian Lester—is centered on two areas: Loan repayment assistance for Columbia law graduates who work in public interest jobs, and fellowships for recent graduates to work in public interest law positions.
The law school’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP), helps graduates in public interest jobs repay their student loans, given that most of those positions come with lower salaries than jobs in the private sector. Columbia is increasing the income threshold for that program from $50,000 to $55,000. That change will net LRAP recipients an additional $1,725 annually and make Columbia’s program among the most generous in the nation, according to the school.
Secondly, the school next year will offer a slate of new post-graduate fellowships for those looking to launch public interest law careers. They range from a two-year-long fellowship working in New York state government to a year working with Human Rights Watch.
The Manhattan law school has long had a reputation as a Big Law feeder. Nearly 68 percent of 2017 graduates took associate jobs at the nation’s largest 100 firms, according to Law.com’s most recent Go-To Law Schools report. Just 5 percent took jobs in public interest law, according to figures from the American Bar Association. But the school’s latest investment in public interest support programs signals that it hopes to send more graduates into those positions.