CONTACT: MELVIN O. SHAW
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0010; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: June 19, 2000
Significant percentage of UI law graduates opt for public interest careers
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Despite salaries in the mid-20s and demanding work days,
a small but significant percentage of University of Iowa College of Law graduates
are opting for careers in public interest law.
At the UI, 7.43 percent of the UI law school's 1998 graduating class accepted
jobs in the public interest areas, according to the National Association of
Law School's (NALP) national directory of law school's self-reported placement
results. The class of 1998 is the most recent class to be officially reported.
Class of 2000 University of Iowa College of Law graduate Erica Clinton and
third-year student Todd Kline are among several recent and current students
who have chosen to practice public interest law.
"My commitment stems from wanting to give back to the community,"
says Clinton, who last year interned at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
and will begin a federal clerkship in Wyoming this fall.
She says as many as 36 recent UI law graduates agreed to donate 1 percent
of their salaries to a special fund of the Equal Justice Foundation (EJF),
which helps to provide legal assistance to the underprivileged. Money from
the fund helps students who otherwise would receive no pay for their summer
work at non-profit or legal aid organizations, Clinton says.
In 1998 a higher percentage of law graduates from the University of Iowa
opted for careers in which the public's interest is served than did those
earning a juris doctorate from other top law schools ranked by U.S. News and
World Report's most recent annual graduate schools guide. At top-ranked Yale
University law school, 4 percent of its students took public interest jobs.
At No. 2-ranked Stanford University, 2 percent of its graduates took similar
jobs, and at No. 3-ranked Harvard, 2.3 percent accepted public interest jobs.
Clinton and Kline each say being able to give counsel to indigent groups
means more to them than high salaries being paid in the private sector.
Kline is among six current law students who are able to work in public interest
areas across the country this summer, thanks to money raised by law students
for the EJF fund. He and others debunk the myth that students with lower grades
go to work in public interest areas. The main reason so few law graduates
go into public interest law is because of the much lower salaries, he says.
"A variety of public interest positions, such as environmental and
disability law, are very competitive," says Kline, who this summer is
working at the Juvenile Division for the District
Attorney of Denver. He says many public interest organizations, when making
hiring decisions, weigh more heavily an applicant's demonstrated commitment
than their grade point average.
A 25-year perspective of six employer types published by the NALP shows
that, nationally, the number of attorneys working in public interest fields
hasn't been higher than 5.8 percent since 1978. The percentage traditionally
hovers just above 2 percent. In 1998, the percentage stood at 2.6 percent
compared to 55 percent for the number of law graduates who went into private
"The reality is that there aren't enough openings across the public
interest field," he said.
Jill Gringer, UI Law Career Services Office, says a number of UI law students
are interested in public causes and careers, and still others choose to sit
on boards as a way of contributing to the greater good of society. Students
like Clinton and Kline, she says, "are the quiet heroes."
The students' commitment to serving underrepresented people is commendable,
says Karen Klouda, career services director at the Iowa law school.