Notre Dame Law School created the Loan Repayment Assistance Program in 2001 to help alumni who are beginning legal careers in public interest and public service. LRAP is designed to ensure that J.D. graduates with law school loans are financially able to work in the nonprofit sector, government, policy advocacy, human rights, and other fields where lawyers make valuable contributions but are often paid lower salaries.
Below are some stories from recent graduates who have used LRAP to pursue their callings in public interest law.
Jason Sethen '15 J.D.
Chicago Low-Income Housing Trust Fund
I would like to strongly encourage all Notre Dame Law graduates with student loans who are exploring public interest positions to take advantage of the Loan Repayment Assistance Program.
Following graduation, I was a Bank of America Foundation Fellowship recipient, working for an affordable housing nonprofit corporation in downtown Chicago. The costs involved in living there were, of course, pretty high. The financial assistance provided by LRAP was invaluable in getting through those two years without incurring even more debt. I am now the general counsel of that nonprofit corporation, am on financially sound footing, and I owe that, in no small part, to ND Law’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program.
Audra Passinault '15 J.D.
DePaul College of Law Asylum & Immigration Law Clinic
After graduating from Notre Dame Law School in 2015, I was awarded the Shaffer Fellowship, which allowed me to create a fellowship position with the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago. I turned down an offer to work at a private law firm in order to serve in that fellowship position, which entailed working with migrant farmworkers throughout the state of Illinois, providing assistance to victims of labor violations, human trafficking, and victims of violent crime. Through this work, I was able to use my skills to provide legal services to some of the most vulnerable communities of people in the Midwest. This experience was immensely rewarding, both personally and professionally, and would not have been possible without the Loan Repayment Assistance Program.
Without the existence of LRAP, I would not have had the confidence to turn down a higher-paying private law firm job and instead start my public interest career. I went to law school, and in particular to Notre Dame, to become a public interest lawyer. LRAP not only financially assisted me in pursuing that goal, but also made me feel like the University supported my career path. Everyone I tell about Notre Dame’s LRAP program is amazed at its generosity; it reflects well on Notre Dame that they stand behind their mission of educating a different kind of lawyer through LRAP.
Following my Shaffer Fellowship, I accepted a judicial clerkship at the Alaska Court of Appeals and am now a staff attorney providing legal assistance to low-income immigrants and refugees. LRAP has continued to support and encourage me, and I feel very lucky to be able to have the career flexibility and support this program provides.
Patrick Grimmer '14, '17 J.D.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney
Elkhart County, Indiana
Notre Dame Law School’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program was a significant factor in confirming my public interest career path. I’ve always had an interest in government work, but was concerned about the cost of paying back three years of law school loans with notable interest rates. LRAP helped cement my path of pursuing a legal career as a prosecutor. It boosted my comfort level knowing that I had financial backing going into a career that isn’t the most lucrative.
One thing that I think is incredibly underrated about the program is how LRAP takes other educational loans out of its income calculation. I had four years of undergraduate loans and to not have those count against my LRAP income was very helpful. My adjusted income has allowed LRAP assistance to make a real and tangible contribution to my monthly loan payments. For me, paying several hundred dollars per month in loan repayment hasn't always been easy, but knowing that the program maximizes the aid it provides is a great peace of mind and demonstrates ND Law’s commitment to students who pursue a public service career.
The LRAP assistance I received last year was not an insignificant amount. The money I saved either went into savings or was used for necessities. This year, my wife is not working while she studies for the CPA exam. Thanks to LRAP, my loan assistance cuts down on what I actually pay in repayment, and that helps us with the day-to-day expenses. I cannot overstate the importance of that. We save money because of LRAP and those funds are free to be used for our living expenses. We could not be more appreciative that such help exists.
More information about the Law School's Loan Repayment Assistance Program is at law.nd.edu/LRAP.