Yesterday, I wrote about Senator Biden’s proposed bill to have 1) a network of legal volunteers for domestic violence cases and 2) more loan forgiveness for lawyers who do that work as a regular part of their job so that more lawyers go into the field. This raises a pet issue of mine: loan forgiveness for public interest work is just one side of the coin for getting more people to go into this line of work. The other side of the coin is more jobs. And that’s where Biden’s bill is incomplete (at least, as it was reported).
Maybe I’m wrong (and please correct me if I am), but do you know any domestic violence legal organizations that have long-standing job openings because people won’t take the low pay? I don’t. What I see is that the pay is terribly low (relative to other lawyers), but that there are always lawyers who are so committed to the work and have the financial flexibility (for whatever reason) to take these positions. The pool of people who are willing to do so may not be as large as one might hope, but the positions do not go unfilled. The same goes with legal services and other non-profits.
So, loan repayment assistance is undeniably wonderful for the people in those jobs. (And I know this firsthand, having taken advantage of my school’s loan repayment program.) But, more loan repayment programs doesn’t mean more people doing this needed work. That will only come when more jobs are created, which, to the best of my knowledge, Biden’s bill doesn’t do.
- David S. Cohen