How to Survive on a Public Interest Salary

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In 2003 Congress reviewed a bill that would provide financial assistance to law school graduates who choose to accept employment in a public interest position. If ratified, this bill would become the ''Public Interest Lawyer Assistance and Relief Act.'' It has become abundantly clear to the government, employers, American Bar Association, law schools, and the students pursuing public interest work that financial support is deeply needed. Surviving on a public interest salary can be difficult, but there are ways to help ease the burden.

Employment in public interest law includes: nonprofit, legal services, public defender, government work, prosecutor, judge advocate general, private practice, self employment, judicial clerkships, academics, and non-legal organizations.


How to Survive on a Public Interest Salary

According to the National Association of Law Placement (NALP), which serves as a source of information for legal career planning and recruitment, median entry-level salaries for public interest jobs start at $34,000. For specific occupations, the median entry-level salary for public defenders is $39,000, $40,000 starting for state and local prosecuting attorneys, and $36,700 for attorneys in public interest organizations.

Marnie L. Glaeberman, Director of Public Service Initiatives at NALP, stated that "there are two financial worries that plague students who choose a public interest career—paying back ridiculous loans and the salaries themselves. Loan repayment is a huge issue that weighs on people. In terms of the pay, a salary in the $30,000 range gives people who owe a tremendous amount pause."

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