BY ERIN ARCHERD
Student Financial Services and the Office of Public Interest Advising offered debt relief and a full Italian dinner to students in a packed Pound 101 last Thursday as recent law school graduates talked about “Living on LIPP.” All four panelists had been or were still using the Low Income Protection Plan, which helps students pay off their annual loans while working for lower salaries than many of their peers.
“If you can’t choose the job you want, who can?” asked Maria Rivera, ’01, who directs the Career Services Office at the University of Connecticut Law School.
She used LIPP to move into the higher education market, which paid much less than her position as an associate at a law firm. Rivera advised students not to be risk averse.
All of the alumni on the panel, although they had a variety of jobs and family situations, stressed that LIPP had helped them to live comfortably. Several mentioned they continued to be in LIPP even though their salaries were higher than they had expected to be receiving while doing public sector work.
“Salaries have gone up to compete with law firms” said Adam Stofsky ’04, who works for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law as a Skadden Fellow.
There is no income ceiling for LIPP, and students with high debt can qualify for the loan repayment regardless of what they earn. One handout distributed by the LIPP program illustrated what the expected contribution might be for a range of income levels, from nothing for a person earning $39,000 to $1,383 for a person making $84,000 a year.
The alumni had a sense of humor about the huge salaries first year associates now make.
“You start to think that if you don’t make $135,000 a year you’re below the poverty line,” joked Andy Friedman, ’01.
More than one panelist addressed the pressure to take a high-paying firm job for the summer after their second year. The panelists’ responses to this pressure were different, but they all reassured the audience that they would find a job after graduation.
“I can’t think of anyone I know who wanted a public interest job that didn’t get it,” said Friedman.
Nick Walsh, ’00, an Assistant District Attorney in Suffolk County, emphasized that many types of jobs allow you to be eligible for LIPP assistance, including working at smaller “boutique” law firms.
He had six figures of debt, but has managed to support his family, even while living in the fancy Copley Square neighborhood.
“I’m married and life has not ended,” he told the audience.
Friedman urged students to stop by financial services and see what LIPP could do to help them pay off their loans.
“The LIPP office is fantastic and very patient,” she said.