Daily Archives: Dec. 5th, 09

Do-gooder? It’s gonna cost ya.

[insert frowny face here]

Elle Woods, Harvard Law Grad. :p

So I recently heard that Harvard Law is no longer going to cover the tuition of aspiring public interest lawyers. If you’ve been a reader of this blog, you know that I graduated from law school. If you’re a close reader, you know that I spent my time in law school focused on public interest law, aka the kind of law that helps people who cannot access the legal system in a proportionate, just and affordable manner. The other side of Big Law and six-figure salaries. Apparently, the recession strikes again. Harvard had been offering scholarships to law students that committed to work in public interest for 5 years after graduation. The program, in existence for less than two years, is kaput. Not only has Harvard succumbed to the economy, but I guess way too many students were taking advantage of it. It’s sad to see a program like this go. My legal education was financed by a similar program.

Temple Law has the Rubin-Presser Scholarship which covers 2 out of the 3 years of tuition for students willing to commit to working in the public interest after graduation. Temple is still offering the scholarship and, as far as I know, they plan to continue. You don’t have to be Alan Greenspan to know that Harvard has a much larger endowment than Temple, but the reason TULaw can offer this scholarship year after year is probably because they only give it to three select students each year. You’d think before cutting the program altogether, Haaaavaaaad would have implemented alternative strategies (offer half tuition, limit the recipients per year, you know… get like Temple).

It’s a shame but I can’t really get TOO boo-hoo for anyone that graduates from Harvard. It sounds mean, even a bit salty, but still. While the work is rewarding, many public interest lawyers are “sacrificing” in one way or another to do the work they believe in. After receiving the same training, spending the same money and taking the same licensing exams as any other attorney, you’ve got to call it a sacrifice to willingly accept a third of the pay and half of the prestige than your peers. Ivy League law grads, however, can afford to work in the public interest, knowing that the institution on their degree gives back some of that prestige (to a certain extent) and may even garner a better salary in some places. They’ll be alright, for sure, but I hate that there’s yet another obstacle inhibiting those who want to be “do-gooders” from going out and saving the world (without going broke in the process).

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