Photo: Courtesy of Erin Gilmer
This article originally appeared as part of a feature on the law school unemployment crisis:While in law school at the University of Colorado and the University of Houston, Erin Gilmer developed a passion for health law and policy, but pursuing that passion has made it exceedingly hard to pay her bills.
Since her 2008 graduation, Gilmer has completed a variety of health policy-related fellowships and other advocacy work, but all have been time-and-funding limited. Since this fall, she has been on her own, attempting to build a practice, Gilmer Health Law, in the areas of patient advocacy and health care technology.
“I have literally never made it above about 200 per cent of the federal poverty limit. It’s just stressful, really stressful,” she says. “But it gives me a new angle to when I’m helping people. I can understand exactly what they’ve been through. I know how hard it is to apply for food stamps. I know how hard it is to apply for medical assistance.”
Some ask her why she has stuck with her current career path, says Gilmer, who says she just doesn’t see herself working at a typical law firm job. “Working in that kind of corporate culture isn’t where I want to be,” she says.
Still, at times she has her doubts. She remains on food stamps so her social life suffers. She can’t afford a car, so she has to rely on the bus to get around Austin, Texas, where she lives. And currently unable to pay back her growing pile of law school debt, Gilmer says she wonders if she will ever be able to pay it back.
“That has been really hard for me,” she says. “I have absolutely no credit anymore. I haven’t been able to pay loans. It’s scary, and it’s a hard thing to think you’re a lawyer but you’re impoverished. People don’t understand that most lawyers actually aren’t making the big money.”
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