People interested in public interest law

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ect88
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Re: People interested in public interest law

Postby ect88 » Sat Feb 05, 2011 5:50 pm

First, I am so happy I found this thread.

Second,

Swanky wrote:Thank you for starting this thread.

Question for all of you PI people out there -- how heavily are you weighing scholarship money in which law school you pick? Personally, I know that my career path is not going to be able to sustain a huge amount of debt so scholarship money is very important to me. What are your thoughts on scholarship money vs. rank/prestige?

Thanks.


I'm weighing scholarship money very heavily. For example, while I love many aspects of Northeastern and they have given me a generous scholarship, I know I won't be able to sustain over $100,000 in debt in my future career (thanks, cost of living in Boston!).

But at the same time, I'm trying to keep scholarships as just one part of a large picture. While Michigan State is giving me full tuition, their public service dedication is far outstripped by schools that are giving me money, but not full tuition.

Rankings don't mean much to me. When it comes to PI, a lot of the top tier has very lacking programs. I would rather go to a well-respected PI school than an overall well-respected school.

In the end, it's really a delicate balance that I think will depend on your personal goals. I know that's a vague answer, but everyone's balance is going to be somewhat different.

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LinzerTorte
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Re: People interested in public interest law

Postby LinzerTorte » Sat Feb 05, 2011 6:01 pm

Hooray, this thread exists!

Thanks for the info and the helpful links, everybody!

TheStrand
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Re: People interested in public interest law

Postby TheStrand » Sat Feb 05, 2011 6:36 pm

Swanky wrote:Thank you for starting this thread.

Question for all of you PI people out there -- how heavily are you weighing scholarship money in which law school you pick? Personally, I know that my career path is not going to be able to sustain a huge amount of debt so scholarship money is very important to me. What are your thoughts on scholarship money vs. rank/prestige?

Thanks.


I hope to do federal government work which obviously does not pay very well, but actually is very prestige dependent (I work in a fed job now and can count on one hand the number of people in my office who don't have an Ivy Bachelor's or JD). And given that the vast, vast majority of people who say they want to do PI end up doing BigLaw work, I want to position myself to be able to get BigLaw in case I change my mind once I'm in LS, so for me, rank and prestige were more important than getting tons of scholarships. Additionally, if I go to a school with rank/prestige I can get BigLaw, work off my debts, and then move to PI (there's not a lot of entry level attorney positions in gov anyway). Also, some top-ranked schools have great LRAP programs for people who want to do PI, so there's a potential offset there; Michigan in particular does not have an actual income cap weirdly enough, and does not have strict standards as to what kinds of work qualify for LRAP. I also took into consideration the quality and types of PI clinics available at various schools, since apparently, law school is not about learning how to be a lawyer.

Details on LRAP at T14:
viewtopic.php?f=15&t=62094

Informative
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Re: People interested in public interest law

Postby Informative » Sat Feb 05, 2011 6:50 pm

ect88 wrote:First, I am so happy I found this thread.

Second,

Swanky wrote:Thank you for starting this thread.

Question for all of you PI people out there -- how heavily are you weighing scholarship money in which law school you pick? Personally, I know that my career path is not going to be able to sustain a huge amount of debt so scholarship money is very important to me. What are your thoughts on scholarship money vs. rank/prestige?

Thanks.


I'm weighing scholarship money very heavily. For example, while I love many aspects of Northeastern and they have given me a generous scholarship, I know I won't be able to sustain over $100,000 in debt in my future career (thanks, cost of living in Boston!).

But at the same time, I'm trying to keep scholarships as just one part of a large picture. While Michigan State is giving me full tuition, their public service dedication is far outstripped by schools that are giving me money, but not full tuition.

Rankings don't mean much to me. When it comes to PI, a lot of the top tier has very lacking programs. I would rather go to a well-respected PI school than an overall well-respected school.

In the end, it's really a delicate balance that I think will depend on your personal goals. I know that's a vague answer, but everyone's balance is going to be somewhat different.


Northeastern is the top PI school in the country, while Michigan State is just another state school in middle america.

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johnnyutah
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Re: People interested in public interest law

Postby johnnyutah » Sat Feb 05, 2011 11:32 pm

bilbobaggins wrote:To be honest, our country and our world would be better off if more intelligent young people went into PI jobs.

Unlikely. There are already more PI lawyers than there are PI jobs. The bottleneck is funding, not manpower.

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lily1221
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Re: People interested in public interest law

Postby lily1221 » Sun Feb 06, 2011 2:15 am

dr123 wrote:hey everyone, I just came across a really helpful site when choosing between law school for those of us who want to go into public interest law, the equal justice works guide to law school. It tells you about public interest scholarships, employment, and pretty much everything you can think of about public interest law in relation to law school

http://www.ejwguide.com/



This is an amazing site. Thank you so much for sharing. :D

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crumpetsandtea
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Re: People interested in public interest law

Postby crumpetsandtea » Sun Feb 06, 2011 2:45 am

lily1221 wrote:
dr123 wrote:hey everyone, I just came across a really helpful site when choosing between law school for those of us who want to go into public interest law, the equal justice works guide to law school. It tells you about public interest scholarships, employment, and pretty much everything you can think of about public interest law in relation to law school

http://www.ejwguide.com/



This is an amazing site. Thank you so much for sharing. :D

swilensk
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Re: People interested in public interest law

Postby swilensk » Sun Feb 06, 2011 4:07 pm

Why is NYU not on this site?? (Which is great, btw)

Isn't NYU huge for PI?

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dr123
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Re: People interested in public interest law

Postby dr123 » Sun Feb 06, 2011 4:08 pm

ll
Last edited by dr123 on Sat Jul 13, 2013 2:54 am, edited 1 time in total.

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bilbobaggins
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Re: People interested in public interest law

Postby bilbobaggins » Wed Feb 09, 2011 5:45 pm

johnnyutah wrote:
bilbobaggins wrote:To be honest, our country and our world would be better off if more intelligent young people went into PI jobs.

Unlikely. There are already more PI lawyers than there are PI jobs. The bottleneck is funding, not manpower.


Well, it's both. One of the issues is that many students from "elite" schools aren't taking PI jobs that interest them, and so students from other schools fill those slots. We would certainly be better off if we have a great number of intelligent people doing PI work. Of course, we also need more funding in the PI world.

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johnnyutah
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Re: People interested in public interest law

Postby johnnyutah » Wed Feb 09, 2011 8:19 pm

bilbobaggins wrote:
johnnyutah wrote:
bilbobaggins wrote:To be honest, our country and our world would be better off if more intelligent young people went into PI jobs.

Unlikely. There are already more PI lawyers than there are PI jobs. The bottleneck is funding, not manpower.


Well, it's both. One of the issues is that many students from "elite" schools aren't taking PI jobs that interest them, and so students from other schools fill those slots. We would certainly be better off if we have a great number of intelligent people doing PI work. Of course, we also need more funding in the PI world.

Wait, so you think the current PI lawyers are stupid?

I mean, even granting for the sake of argument that t-14 students are, on average, smarter than the students of lower ranked schools, I don't think a PI attorney's job performance is likely to be affected by the difference. Most legal work, especially direct services legal work, doesn't particularly privilege raw intelligence at the margins.

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Non-Chalant1
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Re: People interested in public interest law

Postby Non-Chalant1 » Wed Feb 09, 2011 9:36 pm

I wish there were some PI jobs where one could earn a pretty good salary. It's one of those things you think about when you come from humble beginnings. It's what I believe I want to (as of right now), but I'd want my family to be comfortable. I'm not down with going through 3 years of law to be worried about bills.
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dr123
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Re: People interested in public interest law

Postby dr123 » Wed Feb 09, 2011 9:41 pm

,
Last edited by dr123 on Sat Jul 13, 2013 2:54 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Jack Smirks
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Re: People interested in public interest law

Postby Jack Smirks » Wed Feb 09, 2011 10:51 pm

Non-Chalant1 wrote:I wish there were some PI jobs where one could earn a pretty good salary. It's one of those things you think about when you come from humble beginnings. It's what I believe I want to (as of right now), but I'd want my family to be comfortable. I'm not down with going through 3 years of law to be worry about bills.

Dude you're probably going to have to worry about bills no matter what type of law you get into. There are plenty of PI jobs that allow you to live comfortably and still work in a field that doesn't deal with soul debilitating subject matter (i.e. big law).

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Non-Chalant1
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Re: People interested in public interest law

Postby Non-Chalant1 » Wed Feb 09, 2011 10:56 pm

naterj wrote:
Non-Chalant1 wrote:I wish there were some PI jobs where one could earn a pretty good salary. It's one of those things you think about when you come from humble beginnings. It's what I believe I want to (as of right now), but I'd want my family to be comfortable. I'm not down with going through 3 years of law to be worry about bills.

Dude you're probably going to have to worry about bills no matter what type of law you get into. There are plenty of PI jobs that allow you to live comfortably and still work in a field that doesn't deal with soul debilitating subject matter (i.e. big law).

What I mean is a vast percentage of my salary straight up going to nothing but bills. It's just something I've been thinking about more and more lately. I just know I would definitely not want to do big law.

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dr123
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Re: People interested in public interest law

Postby dr123 » Wed Feb 09, 2011 11:00 pm

Non-Chalant1 wrote:
naterj wrote:
Non-Chalant1 wrote:I wish there were some PI jobs where one could earn a pretty good salary. It's one of those things you think about when you come from humble beginnings. It's what I believe I want to (as of right now), but I'd want my family to be comfortable. I'm not down with going through 3 years of law to be worry about bills.

Dude you're probably going to have to worry about bills no matter what type of law you get into. There are plenty of PI jobs that allow you to live comfortably and still work in a field that doesn't deal with soul debilitating subject matter (i.e. big law).

What I mean is a vast percentage of my salary straight up going to nothing but bills. It's just something I've been thinking about more and more lately. I just know I would definitely not want to do big law.


If you're making say 40-50k and the majority of your money is going to bills you are living far above your means.

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Swanky
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Re: People interested in public interest law

Postby Swanky » Wed Feb 09, 2011 11:28 pm

dr123 wrote:
Non-Chalant1 wrote:
naterj wrote:
Non-Chalant1 wrote:I wish there were some PI jobs where one could earn a pretty good salary. It's one of those things you think about when you come from humble beginnings. It's what I believe I want to (as of right now), but I'd want my family to be comfortable. I'm not down with going through 3 years of law to be worry about bills.

Dude you're probably going to have to worry about bills no matter what type of law you get into. There are plenty of PI jobs that allow you to live comfortably and still work in a field that doesn't deal with soul debilitating subject matter (i.e. big law).

What I mean is a vast percentage of my salary straight up going to nothing but bills. It's just something I've been thinking about more and more lately. I just know I would definitely not want to do big law.


If you're making say 40-50k and the majority of your money is going to bills you are living far above your means.


40-50k sounds pretty luxurious to me right now, but I also don't have children. I can definitely see how it would be challenging to live on that if you're paying down a heavy debt load from student loans, have a mortgage, and especially if you have kids...

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rinkrat19
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Re: People interested in public interest law

Postby rinkrat19 » Wed Feb 09, 2011 11:56 pm

Non-Chalant1 wrote:I wish there were some PI jobs where one could earn a pretty good salary. It's one of those things you think about when you come from humble beginnings. It's what I believe I want to (as of right now), but I'd want my family to be comfortable. I'm not down with going through 3 years of law to be worried about bills.


Government jobs won't make you rich, but it's certainly a living. Look up the federal pay scale. DOJ lawyers, for example, start at GS11.

http://www.justice.gov/oarm/arm/hp/hpsalary.htm (doesn't include locality pay, which adjusts for COL by city.)

Working for a non-profit, I assume, is less lucrative than a government job.

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Swanky
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Re: People interested in public interest law

Postby Swanky » Thu Feb 10, 2011 12:14 am

rinkrat19 wrote:
Non-Chalant1 wrote:I wish there were some PI jobs where one could earn a pretty good salary. It's one of those things you think about when you come from humble beginnings. It's what I believe I want to (as of right now), but I'd want my family to be comfortable. I'm not down with going through 3 years of law to be worried about bills.


Government jobs won't make you rich, but it's certainly a living. Look up the federal pay scale. DOJ lawyers, for example, start at GS11.

http://www.justice.gov/oarm/arm/hp/hpsalary.htm (doesn't include locality pay, which adjusts for COL by city.)

Working for a non-profit, I assume, is less lucrative than a government job.


I currently work in the non-profit world and it's... shall we say... the OPPOSITE of lucrative. :-P

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chris0805
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Re: People interested in public interest law

Postby chris0805 » Thu Feb 10, 2011 1:57 pm

Just popping in to say that the salary is doable with a solid LRAP. I live a pretty comfortable life as a first year public interest lawyer. I go out to eat more than I did as a student, buy more "non-essentials", I'm going on a vacation to central america in the spring, AND I have plenty of money to put away into IRAs for a future down-payment or to just keep for retirement. I should note that my wife and I are pretty frugal and lived a pretty spartan lifestyle as students.

I do get paid a little better than most assume first year non-profit lawyers make, but I also live in the NYC (ish) area. My wife also works, but she's a humanities Ph.D. student so it's not much more than her cost of living. We actually live in CT so that saves us money, but we both have huge commuting costs (in opposite directions) so I don't think it saves us that much (if anything) compared to the city.

Living comfortably in PI can be done. Do I wish I had a little more money? I guess, who doesn't? But I also love my job, enjoy decent hours (so decent I've got back into playing Rugby), and live in a nice apt (though it IS in CT). I would be wary of taking on a debt load of more 60-80K without a decent LRAP, but as long as you're not being crushed by student debt, it's pretty good. I think it wouldn't even be that bad with kids, but that's a little ways in the future (with higher incomes) for us.

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Jack Smirks
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Re: People interested in public interest law

Postby Jack Smirks » Thu Feb 10, 2011 5:09 pm

chris0805 wrote:Just popping in to say that the salary is doable with a solid LRAP. I live a pretty comfortable life as a first year public interest lawyer. I go out to eat more than I did as a student, buy more "non-essentials", I'm going on a vacation to central america in the spring, AND I have plenty of money to put away into IRAs for a future down-payment or to just keep for retirement. I should note that my wife and I are pretty frugal and lived a pretty spartan lifestyle as students.

Thanks for dropping in and giving us all some hope. If you or any other recent grads who are working in public interest and willing to answer questions I just have a few:

If you know you want to go PI as a 1L and 2L, how do you go about getting summer gigs?

Do most students interested in PI still go through OCI as a safety net in case their PI jobs fall through (or to keep their options open)?

Would you say that PI hiring focuses more on your previous work experience than OCI firm hiring would?

That's all I can think of for now. tyia.

TheStrand
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Re: People interested in public interest law

Postby TheStrand » Thu Feb 10, 2011 6:44 pm

chris0805 wrote:Just popping in to say that the salary is doable with a solid LRAP. I live a pretty comfortable life as a first year public interest lawyer.


Would you mind sharing where your LRAP is from and what field you're in for public interest (gov? non-profit?) Thank you. Also pretty reassuring to hear as I want to do PI but will owe a quarter million coming out (undergrad was pricey)

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chris0805
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Re: People interested in public interest law

Postby chris0805 » Fri Feb 11, 2011 12:01 pm

So I should be working, but I have an office day and it's Friday so I'll take a quick break to answer some questions :mrgreen:.

I'll be brief, but feel free to ask for more detail in a PM or another post, either is fine.

If you know you want to go PI as a 1L and 2L, how do you go about getting summer gigs?


The best way is to figure out (1) what you want to do (e.g. Impact litigation, direct services, prosecution, defense, youth work, etc.) (2) seeing what's out there and (3) deciding where you'd be willing to work (East coast, Midwest, West coast, the South). At my school, we had a database of everywhere a student had ever done a summer, a pro bono project, or an internship. So I would search by topics, read the student reviews of the places and narrow down from there. If your school doesn't have a database, that's fine. Google searches can get you farther than you might think. Just about every place has a website, you just have to be diligent.

Once you find a place, DON'T BE SHY. The worst they can say is no. Keep in mind most everywhere will not be able to pay you for a summer. If you feel like you NEED $$ try to find grants (assuming your school won't give you a stipend). Limiting yourself to places that can pay will really hamstring your options.

Do most students interested in PI still go through OCI as a safety net in case their PI jobs fall through (or to keep their options open)?

I'm not entirely sure, but I'd guess not. I didn't. This can be stressful as your friends will be getting job offers and you'll just be sitting around with little to no information. The problem is that PI organizations often hire MUCH later than firms do. I got my offers in February for my summers and in March for my job. Any options I would have had at OCI would have expired by November probably at the latest so it wouldn't have really helped me that much.

Would you say that PI hiring focuses more on your previous work experience than OCI firm hiring would?

Definitely! School rank still matters, but PI is much more concerned with prior work experience than a firm is, at least in my experience. They want to see a commitment, they want to see that you can handle working with the population and/or topic, and they want to know that they have someone who can jump right in without needing a constant refresher. If you don't have a great resume coming into LS, that's fine though. Mine wasn't great either. BUT... then you want to start building one as soon as you get to law school through pro bono projects, semester internships, clinics, externships, etc.

Would you mind sharing where your LRAP is from and what field you're in for public interest (gov? non-profit?) Thank you. Also pretty reassuring to hear as I want to do PI but will owe a quarter million coming out (undergrad was pricey)


I work at a non-profit, and I'm using the school LRAP from Columbia. This year, I'll only have to pay about 1300 or so in loans so that is a huge financial help. I could "afford" more, but it would negatively affect my ability to plan financially for my future and, if I had to pay all of it, I think I would have had to start out at firm.

Keep the questions coming if you have them, and I'll answer them this weekend. Now back to work... :oops:

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LinzerTorte
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Re: People interested in public interest law

Postby LinzerTorte » Fri Feb 11, 2011 12:08 pm

chris0805 wrote:So I should be working, but I have an office day and it's Friday so I'll take a quick break to answer some questions :mrgreen:.

I'll be brief, but feel free to ask for more detail in a PM or another post, either is fine.

If you know you want to go PI as a 1L and 2L, how do you go about getting summer gigs?


The best way is to figure out (1) what you want to do (e.g. Impact litigation, direct services, prosecution, defense, youth work, etc.) (2) seeing what's out there and (3) deciding where you'd be willing to work (East coast, Midwest, West coast, the South). At my school, we had a database of everywhere a student had ever done a summer, a pro bono project, or an internship. So I would search by topics, read the student reviews of the places and narrow down from there. If your school doesn't have a database, that's fine. Google searches can get you farther than you might think. Just about every place has a website, you just have to be diligent.

Once you find a place, DON'T BE SHY. The worst they can say is no. Keep in mind most everywhere will not be able to pay you for a summer. If you feel like you NEED $$ try to find grants (assuming your school won't give you a stipend). Limiting yourself to places that can pay will really hamstring your options.

Do most students interested in PI still go through OCI as a safety net in case their PI jobs fall through (or to keep their options open)?

I'm not entirely sure, but I'd guess not. I didn't. This can be stressful as your friends will be getting job offers and you'll just be sitting around with little to no information. The problem is that PI organizations often hire MUCH later than firms do. I got my offers in February for my summers and in March for my job. Any options I would have had at OCI would have expired by November probably at the latest so it wouldn't have really helped me that much.

Would you say that PI hiring focuses more on your previous work experience than OCI firm hiring would?

Definitely! School rank still matters, but PI is much more concerned with prior work experience than a firm is, at least in my experience. They want to see a commitment, they want to see that you can handle working with the population and/or topic, and they want to know that they have someone who can jump right in without needing a constant refresher. If you don't have a great resume coming into LS, that's fine though. Mine wasn't great either. BUT... then you want to start building one as soon as you get to law school through pro bono projects, semester internships, clinics, externships, etc.

Would you mind sharing where your LRAP is from and what field you're in for public interest (gov? non-profit?) Thank you. Also pretty reassuring to hear as I want to do PI but will owe a quarter million coming out (undergrad was pricey)


I work at a non-profit, and I'm using the school LRAP from Columbia. This year, I'll only have to pay about 1300 or so in loans so that is a huge financial help. I could "afford" more, but it would negatively affect my ability to plan financially for my future and, if I had to pay all of it, I think I would have had to start out at firm.

Keep the questions coming if you have them, and I'll answer them this weekend. Now back to work... :oops:


Not to totally hijack this thread with a CLS v. NYU debate, but can I ask how you found the PI resources at CLS? I know for sure that I want to do PI and I am trying to decide between CLS and it's downtown neighbor. I know you cannot comment on the resources at NYU but I was hoping you could talk a little bit about your experience at CLS...you can PM me about it if you would rather do that.

tipler4213
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Re: People interested in public interest law

Postby tipler4213 » Fri Feb 11, 2011 12:36 pm

For someone who is likely to attend Penn (unless I get love from NYU or Harvard) but wants to do government work, this data is very scary.




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