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Educational Debt and Law Student Failure to Enter Public Service Careers: Bringing Empirical Data to Bear

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It is frequently suggested that law school debt is preventing new law school graduates from entering public service careers. The basis for this contention is largely anecdotal, however. This study puts the presumption to empirical scrutiny. Aggregate data from law schools and individual-level data from law students both point to the same conclusion: law students may indeed be competing in a money chase, but it is not because of their indebtedness. Private firms with prestige and high salaries are appealing to many students regardless of their debt burden. And government and public interest jobs may be in too short supply to meet the demand of non-elite students who are essentially closed out of the high-paying jobs in larger firms. The biggest barrier between these students and public service jobs may be the lack of supply of these jobs, not the lack of demand for them.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: American Bar Foundation and McGill and Noble in Durham, North Carolina

Publication date: September 1, 2006


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