For many aspiring and current attorneys, a career in public service depends on the financial security provided by the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. As PSLF enables more law graduates to pursue, and to commit to, sustained careers in public interest law, the program can help ensure that the field is well-staffed.
Public interest attorneys provide essential services in their occupations as prosecutors, public defenders, legal aid attorneys and law clerks—but they often face challenges such as disparities in compensation. These attorneys tend to be compensated at a level much lower than what they might earn in the private sector for doing comparable work, which can continue well beyond the first year of practice. Additionally, they may handle large caseloads with fewer resources. For example, it can be common for public defenders to not have enough time to prepare for cases in order to provide the most effective counsel.
Ultimately, PSLF is an important program for public interest lawyers who uphold the integrity of our nation’s justice system and provide underserved communities with access to justice. Without PSLF, public interest attorneys may seek employment elsewhere, to better meet their financial obligations, which could have a devastating effect on the communities that rely on their services.
To learn more about trends in public interest law salaries and employment, check out AccessLex Institute’s fact sheet on the topic. You can also use this fact sheet to #MakeTheCase with your Members of Congress about why PSLF should be preserved and improved in the next Higher Education Act reauthorization. Write your Member today!