By Sean Smith
Boston College Law Schoolís public interest program is among the top 20 in the country, according to a study by National Jurist magazine.
In the story "Public Interest Honor Roll," which appeared in the magazineís January edition, National Jurist identified those schools that place a special emphasis on public interest law. The schools were selected by the degree to which they ease student debt, help students develop skills and experience, and place graduates into public interest careers.
The list, which was presented alphabetically, included City University of New York, Columbia University School of Law, Duke Law School, Fordham University School of Law, Georgetown University Law Center, Harvard Law School, Loyola University of Chicago, Northeastern University School of Law and Yale Law School.
BC Law administrators said 8.1 percent of last yearís graduating class went into government and public interest work, a figure likely to increase this year.
Law School Dean John Garvey said the National Jurist study represented "a well-deserved recognition of our efforts" in public interest. He pointed to the establishment of the Curtin Center for Public Interest Law, dedicated last April to John J. Curtin Jr., í54, JD í57, and his wife Mary Daly Curtin, which houses student organizations devoted to public interest and public service legal work. The Curtins also established a fund to support various public interest activities at the Law School.
"Itís a very significant step for us," Garvey said. "Public service has always been an important part of the Jesuit tradition, but we have taken great strides lately to improve our program with the establishment of the Curtin Center and commitment to supporting our studentsí involvement with the Public Interest Law Foundation.
"We also have a number of grants in place to help ease the financial burden of pursuing a career in public interest law."
The magazine article identified funding as a major obstacle to public interest programs. Law school graduates, already shouldering large college-loan debts, find average salaries in the public interest field to be significantly less than in other areas of the law. Schools offering a loan repayment assistance program, as well as a strong clinical program for students to gain experience, are leaders in public interest law, the magazine said.
Law School Career Services Director Jean French said the school has greatly enhanced its public service funding over the past five years. The school annually awards four Public Service Scholarships to four incoming first-year students and a fellowship for tuition assistance to an outstanding second-year student. The Drinan Family Fund, established in 1998, provides loan repayment assistance to a recent graduate pursuing a public interest career.
French added that this year the Willier Public Interest Loan Repayment Assistance Program granted a total of $81,000 to 22 Law School graduates, the largest amount in its 11 years of existence. The Public Interest Law Foundation, which offers funding to students working in public sector positions for the summer, received support last year with the creation of the Bingham Dana Fellowship for Public Service, contributed in Curtinís honor by the law firm Bingham Dana LLP.
?Law School Communications Manager Nathaniel Kenyon contributed to this story.
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