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Should the Government Forgive Loans for Public Sector Criminal Lawyers?

Over at MyShingle, I've posted here on this article, Debt Relief May Be In Sight for Lawyers (Chicago Sun Times 11/27/06), which reports on Sen. Dick Durbin's (D-Ill) proposed legislation, The Prosecutors and Defenders Initiative Act. The legislation, originally proposed back in 2003, would provide up to $10,000 a year in loan forgiveness for lawyers who accept, and make a three-year commitment to, employment with prosecutors' or public defenders' offices.

Though I don't dispute that prosecutors and public defenders are underpaid, I wonder whether loan forgiveness will actually help attract or retain qualified lawyers to government ranks. Many of today's lawyers matriculating to prosecutors' and defenders' offices are motivated by the likelihood of gaining real trial experience, which is rarely available at large law firms. These lawyers make calculated career decisions that a salary cut in the early days of their career will pay off handsomely later on when their courtroom experience is in high demand by the private sector (the recent experience of the Enron task force attorneys is evidence of this trend). Does it make sense to forgive loans for attorneys who will have a high-earnings potential down the line? And will an extra $10,000 a year to repay loans matter much when private firms are offering 10 times that amount as signing bonuses?

What's your opinion of loan forgiveness for prosecutor and public defender jobs? 

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on November 27, 2006 at 06:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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