Why should the District of Columbia care about Antioch Law School? This unabashed Antioch supporter would suggest at least three reasons for caring.

First, the District in its role as the nation's capital should be proud of housing a national law school pioneering in legal education. This city and the country are full of law schools providing far too many lawyers for the rich and the powerful. Antioch is unique in its dedication to turning out lawyers for the poor and lawyers dedicated to serving the public interest. D.C. has a very real opportunity to lead the way to a more just society.

Second, Antioch's clinical program provides legal services to the poor of the District of Columbia. In the first 10 years of its existence, Antioch provided legal assistance to 15,000 low-income D.C. residents, and this program has continued unabated. A good example of Antioch's work is the successful multimillion-dollar suit to restore Social Security benefits illegally withheld from thousands of elderly D.C. residents.

Third -- and this will answer widespread misinformation about the Antioch student body -- Antioch has traditionally had an enrollment of some 10 percent bona fide District residents. For the academic year 1985-86, the law school had 34 such residents out of a student population of 362. Although the current impasse means that there will be no first-year class in the fall of 1986, 24 out of the 200 in the remaining two upper classes will be District residents. This is, of course, a far greater percentage than any of the other national law schools in the District. Furthermore, over 30 percent of Antioch's graduates have remained in the District, continuing their work for the underserved here.

Naturally, when Antioch becomes the District's public law school, the percentage of D.C. residents will be even greater. In this respect, it is important to note that Antioch has been a pioneer in training minority students, working-class students and students with nontraditional educational backgrounds to succeed in law school and on the bar exams. Close to 90 percent of its graduates pass the bar -- a record unequaled, so far as I know, by any other law school catering to so diverse a student population.

It would be nice if funds were available from private sources to support this remarkable law school, but my own experience in attempting for the better part of a year to raise such funds convinces me that they are just not available from the private sector. In part, this may be because Antioch is already a public institution in every respect except funding.

Antioch Law School was born of idealism and operated in that vein for its entire 13-year life span. The D.C. Council should give it the chance to go on in that spirit for the benefit of D.C. residents and the nation.