jh60405 wrote:What that means for public interest folk is that if you want to leave PI after 7 years you'll likely be stuck with more debt than you started (the amount you pay each year may not even cover the interest on the loans).
This is technically true, but not a historically normal move. There are typically two scenarios for people moving in and out of PI:
1) Someone starts out at a law firm to pay off/pay down their student loans for a few years and then goes to PI.
2) Someone works in PI for several years and builds litigation experience, and then gets hired by a law firm as a partner or a high-level associate that makes significantly more than the starting $160K/yr pay that fresh grads are offered.
#2 has historically been a lot less common (people who start out in PI work typically do so because they're dedicated to the PI mission). However, that's a pre-ITE assumption based on broad availability of law firm jobs, which is no longer true. People are probably going to PI work now because it's the only paying work they can find upon graduation, so we may start seeing more people trying to lateral to law firms as they pick up hiring again.
The truth is, though, that nobody plans
on starting out in PI and then moving to private practice after just a couple years. For those who do make the #2 move, they're usually doing so to move up very significantly in income. A fifth-year associate, for example, typically makes $230K/year plus bonuses. That kind of income would allow them to service the debt they've deferred and the extra interest that's accrued. Even if their total debt has climbed over the $200K mark by then they can still defeat that in 4 years or so and have plenty of income to spare.