Federal Support for Prosecutors and Public Defenders
Attention law students: The Justice Prosecutors and Defenders Act of 2008 began as an independent bill but was engrossed with the Higher Education Opportunity Act which became a public law when President Bush signed it on August 14, 2008. Why does this act matter to law students? As the press release of one of the key sponsors, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, explains it “creates a student loan repayment program for law school graduates who commit to serve as criminal prosecutors or public defenders.” The Act tracks a similar federal program and “attorneys eligible for loan repayment could have up to $10,000 per year of student loan debt repaid. Loan repayments are capped at a maximum of $60,000 per individual.”
The program should allow more people to pursue public service on both sides of the criminal justice system. Whether the support is enough to keep people in this part of the public sector beyond three years of practice remains to be seen. For after that much training, an attorney could have enough skills and reputation to transfer to a firm and increase pay by two or three times the public sector income. Still, my old firm, Quinn, Emanuel, employed a strategy of looking for attorneys with five to seven years as public litigators before brining them in as senior associates. At that point the attorney was well able to handle a case. From a personal, professional standpoint one may thus face less of the junior associate grunt work than a third or fourth year who has handled her own cases for years would have to do.
In any event, the program is there and hopefully will allow more students to pursue public sector work and gain excellent experience at the same time.
Author: Ben Franske
License: GNU Free Documentation license, Version 1.2 or any later version