Nov. 9-15, 2001
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Law School encourages public service
U.Va. hub for biotechnology
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Law School encourages public service
Virginia to benefit from loan forgiveness program

School of Law
Ian Bradshaw
Law School Dean John C. Jeffries Jr. said he hopes the new programs will foster the University’s reputation as “a leader in the world of public service law.”

By Charlotte Crystal

Law students interested in public service will be better able to pursue that cause, thanks to two new programs at the School of Law: the new Powell Fellowship and a revamped loan forgiveness program.

Many students enter the Law School with a public service career in mind, but for various reasons — not the least of which is the high cost of paying back student loans — decide that taking a low-paying job after graduation isn’t an option, said Law School Dean John C. Jeffries Jr.

“U.Va. is known as a good place to train for Wall Street law, but it’s not as well known as a center of public interest law and public service, a field in which we have an excellent national reputation,” Jeffries said. “We feel that we should encourage people who want to devote themselves to public service, knowing they will forgo considerable remuneration to do so.”

Jeffries organized the Powell Fellowship in collaboration with the children of the late Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, friends of the Powell family and Law School alumni. Beginning next spring, the fellowship will be available to a graduating third-year student who has taken a job in the public sector, or a former student currently serving a judicial clerkship. The fellowship, the first one of which will be offered each year, will provide a one-year stipend of $35,000 plus health benefits, with the expectation of renewal for a second year.

The second initiative, the Virginia Loan Forgiveness Program, actually replaces two older ones — the Public Service Loan Assistance Program, a loan deferral program for graduates working in public service; and the Virginia Career Option Assistance Program, a loan forgiveness program for graduates practicing law in one of Virginia’s 20 poorest counties.

The new program expands the older programs and streamlines the administration, Jeffries said. Aid will come in the form of loan forgiveness, rather than deferral. It will cover the loans of students who choose careers in public service, as well as those who take private sector jobs in Virginia, whether in an underserved area or not.

“Every major law school has a program of debt forgiveness to encourage students to pursue public service careers,” Jeffries said. “But what is distinctive about our program is that we define public service to include the practice of private sector law anywhere in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

In principle, all U.Va. Law School graduates practicing law in Virginia qualify for the program. However, under the repayment scheme, only those graduates with adjusted gross incomes of less than $35,000 will receive 100 percent loan forgiveness, while those earning between $35,000 and $60,000 will have partial forgiveness, with payments declining as income increases. Graduates earning more than $60,000 are not eligible for the program.

“The old programs were hard to understand and not used much,” Jeffries said. “The new program has a more generous schedule of benefits and is very simple.”

The goal is to encourage talented graduates to stay and practice in Virginia, Jeffries said. To do this, the program meets not only geographic needs, but also the state’s occupational needs. The average compensation for private sector lawyers in Virginia’s underserved rural areas — about $40,000 — is similar to that offered in larger urban areas to lawyers practicing in fields such as criminal defense, public defense, poverty law, civil rights law, and those serving as public prosecutors.

“We define public service very broadly, including not only charitable groups, but also government agencies,” Jeffries said. “We believe that students applying to law school will see these programs as evidence that U.Va. cares about public service. At the same time, as a public institution, we will be helping the state.

“These subsidies show that we intend to be a leader in the world of public service law as well as in private commerce, where most of our students now go,” Jeffries said. “I hope there will be a significant increase in the number of students who use this.”


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