Rachel Sobrero, 29 is a Nashville prosecutor. On the weekends, she waits tables. Public defender Mickie Smith Daugherty moonlights as a teacher helping students get into college. She held a third job, until her doctor told her she was suffering from sleep deprivation. The Tennessean in Nashville says that low-paying legal jobs, along with large student-loan debt, leave many prosecutors and public defenders struggling. “a lot of young attorneys in our office live from paycheck to paycheck,” Daugherty said.
Some in Congress are backing the proposed Prosecutors and Public Defenders Incentive Act, which would pay off up to $6,000 a year in student loans if attorneys agree to stay in their public jobs for a certain length of time. Similar programs already are offered to doctors, nurses, and teachers who get part of their student-loan debt paid by agreeing to work in underserved areas. The law would make it easier to keep good, experienced attorneys, said Davidson County prosecutor Torry Johnson, who had at least six lawyers leave his office this year alone. Prosecutor Sobrero’s student-loan debt is about $140,000; Daugherty’s, $100,000. The starting salary for a Nashville assistant public defender is $43,668. For an assistant district attorney, it’s $40,440.