Wednesday, August 15

Law school stays impartial between public and private sector

Incentives to pursue public service careers aren't meant to pull students away from private sector

UC President Mark Yudof recently said law schools are encouraging students to pursue careers in the public sector.

UCLA School of Law, however, does not believe students are pushed in any direction in particular, according to Catherine Mayorkas, executive director of Public Interest Programs for the UCLA School of Law.

In a question-and-answer session, the Los Angeles Times asked Yudof if UC graduate programs were pushing students toward “business, law, medicine careers ““ big moneymaking careers” and not paying as much attention to the public sector.

“We try awfully hard there. The law school has turned heaven and earth to encourage students, with loan forgiveness and other things, to pursue public service,” Yudof responded.

Mayorkas said that this was not an accurate portrayal of the UCLA School of Law.

“UCLA’s law school is very supportive of students who wish to pursue public service careers, but we don’t push one way or another,” Mayorkas said. “(Schools), generally, are trying to support the career goals of their students.”

UCLA’s law school does have programs and options specifically geared for those who are interested in public service, because traditionally, it is harder to build a career in the public sector, Mayorkas said. Companies or corporations in this area of work are not necessarily able to pay for students to intern or work for them.

“The dean, this year, has guaranteed funding for students who go into public service, for some of those organizations are unable to pay as long as they do some volunteer hours,” said Elizabeth Moeller, assistant dean of Career Services at UCLA School of Law.

In addition to the funding, the law school provides programs for students interested in the public sector.

One of these programs is the Summer Public Service Fellowship Program. The program provides funding for living expenses of first- and second-year law students who work for organizations that typically are unable to pay. According to Mayorkas, eligibility for the program is dependent on students’ participation in community service and a summer fellowship with a public sector company.

Last summer, the fellowship program allotted about 245 students with adequate funding to cover living expenses. The program was able to help every eligible applicant, Mayorkas said.

“The private-sector realm does not necessarily need the same support (as the public sector). If students go into the private sector, firms can pay,” she said.

Another public sector-inclined program in the law school is the David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy, which provides a public service concentration for its students, according to Mayorkas.

Law student Amara Allenstein, who is in the Epstein program, said the program is supportive of students’ interests and introduces students to opportunities in the public and private sectors.

“We hear from people who don’t do the public policy piece (of law), as well as those that do,” Allenstein said, “I don’t think there’s an agenda pushing students one way or another.”

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