August 18, 2008


National Program Mirrors Association's Efforts to Promote Public Service Careers for Attorneys

New York State Bar Association President Bernice K. Leber (Arent Fox LLP) today praised Congress and the President for their approval of student loan forgiveness legislation designed to assist law school graduates who commit to working in public service legal positions with repaying their student loans. The federal legislation, which resembles the Association's Student Loan Assistance for the Public Interest (SLAPI) program that awards grants to law school graduates based upon their work in various public service attorney fields, was recently passed by Congress and signed into law late last week by the President.

"The work that public service attorneys undertake each and every day is critically important," Leber said. "Given the state of the economy, it is particularly critical that our government provide incentives to law students encouraging public services for those who can least afford a lawyer. We have an obligation to do all we can to encourage more lawyers to choose careers that serve the public interest, and this legislation, coupled with the Association's SLAPI program, represents two significant steps forward in achieving that goal. I want to thank New York's congressional delegation, members of Congress, and the President for partnering together to make this happen."

"Public service attorneys play an indispensable role in helping to improve the quality of life in communities across the country," said Steven C. Krane (Proskauer Rose LLP), Chair of the SLAPI program. "The New York State Bar Association recognizes the substantial benefits our citizens receive when attorneys devote their talents and energies to careers that serve the public interest, and we fully support efforts to reward those who continually strive to make a difference. I want to commend Congress and the President for working together to approve this important measure."

The legislation amends the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 to direct the U.S. Attorney General to assume the obligation to repay student loans for borrowers who agree to remain employed, for at least three years, as state or local criminal prosecutors; or state, local, or federal public defenders in criminal cases. It allows a borrower and the Attorney General to enter into an additional loan repayment agreement, after the required three-year period, for a successive period of service that may be less than three years. It limits the amount paid under the program on behalf of any borrower to $10,000 per calendar year and $60,000 total. Earlier this year, the Association urged New York's congressional delegation to pass the provisions that were ultimately incorporated into the final legislation.

Just last month, the Association announced that the SLAPI program would provide two new grants this year of up to $4,000 each to public service law attorneys. Candidates chosen for the program must be employed to work at least 35 hours per week in a law-related position in New York Stateat an organization providing civil, criminal or child welfare/juvenile justice legal services to low income people; a federal, state or local government agency; or a similar organization.

The 74,000-member New York State Bar Association is the official statewide organization of lawyers in New Yorkand the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Founded in 1876, NYSBA programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice system for more than 130 years.