Because of the nature of public interest work, full-time public interest lawyers do not take home the same salary as attorneys working in private practice.
Many students who begin law school with the intention of doing some sort of public interest law end up working private practice jobs because the yoke of debt is so heavy. Because law school debt prevents some of the best lawyers from contemplating full-time careers in public interest work, many organizations have instituted Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAPs). In general, LRAPs are meant to help recruit top-notch attorneys. They aim to do this by repaying a significant portion of the public interest attorney’s student loans. A sample of public interest organizations that offer LRAPs is presented below.
Center for Arkansas Legal Services, Little Rock
Community Legal Services, Phoenix
DNA – People’s Legal Services, Inc., Window Rock
Bay Area Legal Aid, Oakland
Disability Rights Advocates, Oakland
Inland Counties Legal Services, Riverside
Legal Aid Society of San Diego, San Diego
Legal Services of Northern California, Sacramento
Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, Pacoima
Connecticut Legal Services, Inc., Middletown
Community Legal Aid Society, Inc., Wilmington
District of Colombia
Equal Justice Works, Washington
Bay Area Legal Services, Tampa
Community Legal Services of Mid Florida, Inc., Daytona Beach
Florida Rural Legal Services, Lakeland
Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Atlanta
Appalachian Research and Defense Fund of Kentucky, Inc., Prestonsburg
Pine Tree Legal Assistance, Portland
Greater Boston Legal Services, Boston
Merrimack Valley Legal Services, Lowell
South Middlesex Legal Services, Framingham
Western Massachusetts Legal Services, Inc., Springfield
Farmworker Legal Services, Grand Rapids
Legal Services of Eastern Michigan, Flint
Legal Services of South Central Michigan, Ann Arbor
Legal Aid of Western Missouri, Kansas City
St. Louis City CASA, GAL Office, Family Court – Juvenile Division, St. Louis
Disabilities Rights Center, Inc., Concord
New Hampshire Legal Assistance, Manchester
Legal Advice and Referral Center, Concord
Farmworker Legal Services of New York, Inc., New Paltz
Legal Aid Society of New York Criminal Defense Division, New York City
Legal Aid of North Carolina, Inc., Raleigh
Community Legal Aid Services, Akron
Ohio State Legal Services, Columbus
Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc., Oklahoma City
Lane County Legal Aid Service, Eugene
Legal Aid Services of Oregon, Hillsboro
Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, Nashville
Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc., Weslaco
Columbia Legal Services, Seattle
Northwest Justice Project, Seattle
In addition to the aforementioned organizations, some law schools have LRAPs, and the J. Reuben Clark Law School is currently looking into the feasibility of funding an LRAP program for its graduates working in public interest careers.
There are also several state-funded LRAPs. State-funded LRAPs provide benefits to all law graduates working in that state who meet certain state-specific requirements (criteria such as annual income and type of work).
Arizona, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Texas, and Washington have all instituted LRAPs. Other states, including Missouri and Montana, are in the process of implementing similar programs. PILF and the BYU Law School are currently researching the possibility of advocating for a state LRAP in Utah. Because the requirements and benefits differ from state to state, students should research the programs before making any concrete plans. The ABA provides web addresses and other contact information for these state programs at www.abanet.org/legalservices/lrap/state/stateprograms.html.
For students interested in government public service employment, the federal government has implemented a similar program to help employees of federal agencies repay student loans. More information is available at www.opm.gov/oca/pay/studentloan/.