Now, public interest-minded students have even less of an excuse not to give their dreams a chance.
This week, the Law School approved new changes to the Low Income Protection Plan that significantly improve the benefits to students earning below $45,000. As of this summer, up to $30,000 of undergraduate and joint degree debt will be eligible for LIPP coverage, meaning than even an HLS student with a bundle of undergraduate loans can afford to pursue a public interest career straight out of HLS.
Furthermore, the program has reduced the contribution requirement for graduates earning above $46,000. The new scale allows students with heavy debt ($120,000 or more) to remain in LIPP longer, and provides an additional living expense margin for graduates in high-rent areas.
These changes are among many steps the Law School has taken recently that demonstrate a true commitment to public service. It is a popular myth on campus that the Law School somehow prefers or even tacitly promotes the big firm lifestyle. The most likely theory to be propounded for such preference seems obvious when one looks at the name of various landmarks on campus – large law firms (Cravath and Ropes Gray, to name two) have been among the Law School’s largest donors, and have more cash to give. By the conspiracy theorists’ logic, then, the Law School does everything it can to push its students into large law firms so that it will engender the type of goodwill that brings donations.
This reasoning is not only flawed, but indeed, offensively ludicrous. HLS graduates play a dominant role in public service, from the Supreme Court, Senate and House of Representatives on down. Anyone who questions the Law School’s commitment to all types of public service today will have a very difficult time reconciling their views with LIPP, which is among the most generous programs of its type in the country. Far from being a sop to corporate law firms, supporting LIPP entails a real cost for HLS in terms of direct payments as well as staff. If HLS really hoped to drive all its graduates through the doors of Dewey Ballantine, LIPP could not be a more counterproductive concept.
Instead, the more likely explanation for students’ corporate conspiracy theories is simply their attempt to justify their own self-selection into large law firms, whose lifestyle has intrinsic appeal for many.
Rather than trying to use backward logic to deconstruct the Law School’s “true motives” for its students’ careers, those truly concerned about the future of HLS graduates in public service should be doing everything they can to support the administration in its efforts to publicize LIPP and help more students take advantage of it.
Ken Lafler, the new LIPP director, and his predecessor Lisa Dealy, deserve praise and thanks for their incredible effort to maintain and improve a program that so clearly provides a positive opportunity for students to pursue dreams that their finances otherwise might never have made possible.