May 8, 2009
To: Boalt Hall Students and Alumni
From: Christopher Edley, Jr.
Re: Boalt’s Response to the Economic Downturn
In this time of turmoil and uncertainty in the legal job market, there is an unhealthy dose of stress for many of our students. Many of the firms to which our graduates were headed have announced delays in their employment start dates. A few other graduates, including both public interest and private sector jobseekers, are still looking for employment. My staff and I have been hard at work devising ways to help during these tough times. We have developed several new initiatives described in detail below.
I hope these measures will benefit our community of current and new students, as well as alumni who have been rocked by the recession. The memo is divided into discrete sections so you may select the elements of greatest interest to you.
HEALTH INSURANCE OPTIONS
Maintaining health insurance coverage during a period of unemployment or deferral from a secured position in the private sector is critically important. For students graduating this spring and enrolled in the University’s Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP), your coverage will continue until August 14, 2009. After that date, you will need to secure additional coverage, either from an employer, through the university or on the open market. Boalt wants to help.
Boalt Bar Study Loans for Continuing Health Insurance Coverage
Boalt has decided to extend the application period for our donor-funded bar study loan program from April 24th until July 31st to allow graduates seeking resources for continuing their health insurance coverage to make use of this Boalt program. Graduating students are eligible for a loan of up to $4,200, an amount which can help defray the cost of individual health insurance coverage for up to 12 months through most of the continuing coverage offerings described on the UHS website (see below for links). See a description and application for the loan program here. Repayment for borrowers who have yet to secure permanent employment can be deferred at 0% interest until January 2011.
Continuing Coverage Options from the SHIP Website
The University’s Health Services webpage has a wealth of information about options for continuing health insurance coverage once your SHIP coverage expires in August. The table comparing available program options is particularly helpful. There is a broad array of programs available and each involves trade-offs on price, deductibles and coverage. Contact the Student Health Insurance Office for assistance in navigating the available options at (510) 642-5700. We will arrange for an informational program with UHS counselors for interested graduates to be held at Boalt over the summer. Details will follow soon.
Private Bar Study Loans
Many students have traditionally taken advantage of various private bar study loan options as well. These loan programs often have more stringent requirements on credit-worthiness, but often provide for larger loan amounts, up to $15,000 in some cases. The Financial Aid Office is glad to assist you in considering which of these options might best serve your individual needs. They can be reached at (510) 642-1563 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
OPTIONS FOR REPAYING STUDENT LOANS
Repaying student loans is a serious concern for all of our graduates, more so for those still seeking employment or for those with a deferred start date at their firms. Fortunately, there are a number of helpful options available to borrowers who are unemployed or are facing an unpaid leave.
Grace Period for Repayment
Repayment of federally backed student loans generally begins 6 months after graduation, with most borrowers required to make a first payment in December or January. Speak with your lender or with Boalt’s Financial Aid Office to get details about your specific situation.
Deferment & Forbearance of Payments
Borrowers with federally backed student loans can qualify for a period of deferment of all payments for up to 36 months provided they meet criteria for “partial economic hardship.” There is a very effective calculator available on the finaid.org website here and a better discussion of deferment, forbearance and other options available here. Generally speaking, unemployed students can expect to receive deferment of payments while they continue their job searches. Many graduates with a deferral working on a stipend from their firms may also qualify.
Income Based Repayment (IBR)
The College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 (Pub.L.110-84) created a new program for student loan borrowers, the Income Based Repayment option, which becomes available starting July 1, 2009. Graduates with high levels of debt and lower incomes can qualify for substantially reduced monthly payments through this program. The program generally reduces monthly payments (often very substantially) at the expense of a longer period of repayment, capped by a forgiveness of any remaining balances in 10 years for employees in the public interest or public service arenas or after 25 years for everyone else. The economics of legal education and employment being what they are, law graduates not employed at a large law firm will generally qualify for IBR should they wish to pursue it. The rules and financial implications of the program are complex but there are an increasing number of helpful resources to help graduates make sense of them on the internet. Equal Justice Works provides a detailed description of the program here, while finaid.org has useful information and a calculator on its website and, finally, ibrinfo.org provides another good source of information.
COUNSELING AND OTHER EMPLOYMENT RESOURCES
Career Development Office
Our Career Development Office (CDO) employs six attorney-counselors, each of whom has practiced law and can offer real-world insights into various career paths. They currently include an attorney for a non-profit organization providing assistance to the poor, a former executive director of a grass roots social change advocacy organization, a former government lawyer, a former partner in a large law firm, and a former small firm practitioner. The CDO offers a wide range of services to current students and former graduates, ranging from resume development to interviewing tips. Please check the CDO website for a detailed list of available services.
Expanded Career Counseling Positions
In response to growing demand, and despite a campus hiring freeze necessitated by the grim budget climate, Boalt has approved two new counselor positions for CDO. With increased staffing resources, CDO will be able to devote more individualized attention to students and graduates. We believe that ensuring appropriate capacity is essential. We want students and the alumni community to know we are there when you need us. We are determined to assure 100% employment of our graduating students, despite the difficult market. And we are also determined to help alumni, especially recent alumni, with any difficult transitions they may face. Those twin goals drive these initiatives.
The research centers at Berkeley Law have created a small number of volunteer fellowship positions that may qualify for law firm deferral programs. These fellowships may also present opportunities for unemployed alumni to maintain and enhance their legal research, writing and advocacy skills. For more information, see the “Deferred Associate Host” listings on the b-Line, the CDO’s jobs database (password protected).
Webcast Informational Programs
In conjunction with the Financial Aid Office, CDO recently offered a program entitled “Post Graduate Career Development and Financial Planning for 3Ls” which is available online via the Guides and Webcasts page of the CDO website (password protected). Topics included work/volunteer options for furthering your career development in the event you have a gap between the bar exam and employment and options for dealing with student loan debt, including deferment and forbearance. The CDO website offers an array of other webcasts on subjects ranging from job search skills and career development to practice area specialties, which are available to our alumni community as well as our students
Reciprocity with Other Law Schools
Like students and alumni at most other law schools, members of the Boalt community can request reciprocity with other law school career Development offices, which will enable them to access their career resources. Click here for further details. (This may be especially useful for those of you interested in less frequented cities or regions.)
Career Development Office Responses to Changing Market Conditions
(1) The CDO has retooled its programming by adding elements addressing current market conditions to its existing lineup and by adding new programs, such as a presentation by one of the country’s top law firm management consultants entitled, “Evaluating Law Firms in a Changing Economy.” (2) The CDO has customized its jobs database to accommodate announcements from host organizations interested in hiring deferred Boalt alumni and graduates. We have also arranged for access to a California-focused resource housed by the Public Interest Clearinghouse. (3) The CDO is expanding and updating its small and medium-sized firm contact and profile information, as well as its state and local government and public interest employer resources. (4) CDO is now engaged in deeper outreach to small and medium-sized firms and aggressive efforts to strengthen our ties to alumni practicing in the private sector, government, and in public interest organizations who may be available to offer advice or open doors.
FINANCIAL AID & SUPPORT FOR PUBLIC INTEREST STUDENTS AND GRADUATES
Improvements to the Loan Repayment Assistance Program
The faculty and student Financial Aid Committee is now completing a major overhaul of the Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP). Boalt’s current program is among the most generous in the nation, providing full coverage for monthly payments for up to $100,000 of law school debt for graduates earning $58,000 per year or less in qualifying employment in the public interest or public service sectors. Coverage is provided on a sliding scale for graduates earning more than $58,000 per year up to a theoretical maximum of $100,000 in earnings. Details for the current program (which will be maintained for current students and participants until 2013) are available here.
The new program option will eliminate the $100,000 loan limit, providing coverage for any amount of law school student loan debt and extending coverage to some undergraduate loans. The new program will provide full coverage for those earning up to $65,000 per year and similar sliding scale benefits for those earning more up to a limit of $100,000 per year. Participation in the new program will be contingent upon enrollment in the Income Based Repayment (IBR) option created under the College Cost Reduction and Access Act. This new program option will be available starting with the January 2010 LRAP eligibility period. Further program details will be forthcoming over the summer.
Extension of New LRAP Option to Previous Graduates
The new LRAP program will be made retroactively available to any previous graduate or LRAP participant who still qualifies for support under the program rules. More details about the new options will be forthcoming over the summer.
Deferred Private Sector Graduates & LRAP
LRAP will not cover graduates who have been deferred for a year and are receiving a stipend to do volunteer public interest work before joining their private law firms. LRAP is solely designed to provide assistance to graduates who are interested in pursuing public interest work or government employment as a career. For this reason, LRAP similarly does not cover graduates who are employed as a judicial clerk for a year before joining their private law firm. Deferred graduates can take advantage of the Income Based Repayment program on their federally backed student loans.
Summer Public Interest Fellowship Program
Boalt is ear-marking a large amount of additional funding, up to $500,000, to support the Summer Public Interest Fellowship Program over the coming year. Boalt Hall currently guarantees up to $4,000 to JD students who are pursuing their first summer of unpaid public interest employment over the summer. Students pursuing a second summer of public interest employment are guaranteed a minimum of $2,000, but they may also receive supplemental fellowship awards (see next section). Details of the program can be found here.
New Fund to Supplement Awards to Second Time Summer Fellows
On the recommendation of the Financial Aid Committee, Boalt has agreed to dedicate certain summer fellowship funds to “top-up” the $2,000 guaranteed grants for second-summer public interest fellowships. This expansion will ensure that substantial funds, up to $50,000 in total, are available to provide additional support to students who are second year summer fellowship seekers who are unable to secure external supplemental funding. We think it is important to provide this additional funding because there may be fewer paid positions available for 2Ls than previously.
Bridge Fellowship Program Expansion
Graduates of the class of 2009 dedicated to pursuing a public interest or government career but who have not secured employment by May can apply for our innovative Bridge Fellowship Program, now in its fifth year. Boalt will increase the number of fellowships (limited to 12 in recent years) to as many as 24 for 2009 in response to the tightening job market for public interest positions. Bridge Fellows will be provided with limited financial assistance (up to $10,000 total over 4 months beginning after the bar exam and ending in December) to engage in volunteer work designed to help them continue to develop skills, contacts, and work experiences. Such experience enables them to better compete for permanent public service positions once available, and after bar exam results. Graduating students interested in pursuing the program should contact Linda Maranzana (email@example.com) in the CDO.
Emergency Loan Fund
In November 2009, Boalt Hall will start accepting applications for short-term loans from our donor-supported Emergency Loan Fund for graduates experiencing exceptional financial hardship due to the current economic climate. Applications will be considered on a case by case basis and determinations made on the basis of demonstrated need and available funding.