Class of 2015 Public Interest/Government Employment stats
These percentages are based on the number of full-time PI-employed graduates divided by the total graduates. The total number of PI-employed graduates are in parenthesis. For these purposes, “PI” includes what the ABA required disclosure defines as “Public Interest” and “Government.” Thus, if a school has 3 Public Interest and 5 Government grads, then PI-employed grads would equal 8.
UC Berkeley: 19.8% (55)
Georgetown: 19.6% (133)
NYU: 18.8% (91)
Harvard: 13.6% (80)
Yale: 13.5% (27)
UMich: 12.7% (45)
UVA: 12% (44)
Columbia: 11.6% (48)
Cornell: 11% (21)
Stanford: 9.2% (18)
Penn: 8.5% (21)
NU: 6.6% (19)
Chicago: 6.1% (12)
Duke: 5.3% (11)
Trends over the last 3 years:
Trends over the last 6 years:
Skadden Fellows since 2010:
To see what organizations fellows were placed in, search the Skadden Fellows directory.
Equal Justice Works (EJW) Fellows since 2009:
To see what organizations fellows were placed in, search the EJW Fellows directory.
For judging a school's PI culture, I'd look more at the total number of graduates from each school rather than the percentage alone, because PI is self-selecting whereas biglaw is the default (at the top schools). For instance, Michigan has a higher percentage than CLS, but total number wise they're roughly the same.
There are also some nuances to these numbers. For instance, the majority of students at Michigan, UVA, and Cornell go to government, whereas the majority of Harvard, CLS, and NYU go to PI.
For purposes of this data I combined them because government and PI people are both self-selecting and have similar motivations.
LRAP Program Overview
All top law schools have a Loan Repayment Assistance Program, which are programs that assist students who choose to enter public interest or government employment with repaying their law school debt. Usually, this assistance takes the form of a forgivable loan that disperses in annual checks/deposits that equal your annual repayment burden on your law school debt. For instance, if you owe 100k at graduation, then you would pay ~10k a year under a 10 year repayment plan. The annual check/deposit from your LRAP program would equal ~10k. But some schools have better LRAP terms than others.
Each program various with regard to: (1) how much your adjusted gross income affects your LRAP benefits; (2) how long you have to work until you can leave the LRAP program without owing your law school repayment for the LRAP benefits; (3) whether your spouse's income counts for purposes of calculating your LRAP benefits; (4) whether your benefits change if you combine the LRAP with the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program; and many more. This section will attempt to provide the barebones of each schools' LRAP.
Click here to view LRAP spreadsheet
Below are anonymous testimonials from PI students and alums at the T14 schools.
Columbia Law School
I think Columbia is a great choice for students interested in public interest or government practice. The school has a separate office dedicated solely to PI students called Social Justice Initiatives (SJI). SJI does everything that a typical career service office does (advising, resume/cover letter help, etc.) but they also have relationships with the vast network of CLS alums working in public interest and government. This network can help get students internships/externships, as well as post-graduate jobs. SJI also helps support students financially to attend PI law conferences and helps support the numerous PI-focused student organizations hosts events. CLS is known as a "corporate" school, but it's PI community is vast and impressive.
CLS has tons of opportunities for out-of-classroom learning experiences. Up to 21 credit hours at CLS can be non-graded credits, which means that you can take up to 21 hours of clinics, externships, and fieldwork. In addition, CLS offers a full-time, semester-long externship in the federal government in Washington, DC, and it also offers human rights semesters abroad. SPIN (Student Public Interest Network) is the main PI student organization where PI students of all goals can socialize and meet fellow students.
The post-grad employment in PI and government is fantastic. There are students who obtain ultra-competitive positions at nonprofits, Skadden/EJW fellowships, DOJ Honors, district attorneys offices, public defender offices, and honors fellowships at federal agencies. The school also offers inhouse fellowships for PI students to pursue their project-based or issue-based advocacy goals with organizations across the country doing impact litigation, direct services, and public interest advocacy.
UC Berkeley (Boalt)
I chose Boalt for its location. I was fairly sure I wanted to be a public defender, and my home region had experienced lots of hiring freezes for those jobs. Berkeley's in the middle of 5-6 excellent county PD offices -- Santa Clara, SF, Contra Costa, Alameda for starters -- so I knew the internship and hiring opportunities would be good. Add to that the fact that Boalt has a good LRAP program, and it made my choice relatively straight forward in competition with the other schools I was looking at -- Michigan, Duke, GTown with some okay scholarships, or a few Midwestern T-20's with full rides. I went for full cost of attendance and ultimately got the PD job, though ironically back in the Midwest where I'm from.
As an institution, it's hard for me to tell if the school itself was better at placing people in public interest jobs than other schools. The career services office has 1-2 people that specialize in public interest law, but PD jobs are less based on connections and networking or neatly packaged applications than other kinds of PI work like a fellowship, so I did not rely on the CSO to do much more than arrange on-campus interviews for a few of the PD offices that tend to hire. The law school had lots of lunch talks, seminars, classes and externship connections with public defender offices, but I'm not sure that's any longer a unique feature for almost any law school.
A lot of what is valuable at a top tier law school, like networks, prestigious faculty, and the ability to keep your options open to other fields of law, really did not apply to me. If I had the chance to start over with the same goal in mind of becoming a PD, the correct course of actions would have been to attend one of the T-20's for virtually no cost. Even though LRAP + IBR/PAYE + PSLF are a godsend for someone in my career position, I feel foolish for having taken on so much debt in such a volatile political climate, and I am fearful that these programs could one day evaporate before I truly get to take advantage of them. It would have been better to attend a school at next to no cost and just intern at a PD job next door a lot.
I have incredibly mixed thoughts on going to Northwestern as someone who wanted to do public interest. Yes, I was in the minority. Yes, the school lacked structure for PI students. But at the same, time, Northwestern was perfect for me and my goals, and it absolutely got me where I wanted to be.
I think part of being successful at getting the PI job you want at Northwestern is being self-sufficient. The school isn't going to baby you and set things up for you the way that they do for students who want firm jobs. But Northwestern also has a lot of things that make for great resume-building for people who want PI jobs. I did two different clinics that were relevant to the work I wanted to do after law school, and I got to do a lot of real, substantive work--on both litigation and policy. Northwestern also has a few journals that are relevant to PI work, and on the smaller journals it's fairly easy to get published. Plus, being in Chicago gives great opportunities for internships both during the summer and during the school year. This is all great for resume-building and ultimately getting a job after graduation.
My friends and I who wanted PI jobs pretty much all got what we wanted, but it wasn't exactly an easy road. That said, I think I absolutely went to the right law school and I now basically have my dream job.