Can a lawyer help with student loans? Absolutely, but only if you hire the right one.
If you need to resolve a problem with an unruly loan servicer, for example, hiring the wrong student loan lawyer could set you back.
To avoid that mistake, look for certain traits in your professional help before agreeing to pay for it.
How can a lawyer help with student loans?
Student loan lawyers can help borrowers with a wide range of problems. Some common reasons to request their services include:
- Dealing with a delinquency or default
- Considering filing for bankruptcy
- Needing expert advice on loan repayment or discharge
- Aquiring representation to deal with a loan servicer, debt collection agency, or administrative body
You should attempt to resolve any problems with your loan servicer before resorting to paying out of pocket for professional advice.
If you’re struggling to manage your debt, for example, you can find free student loan tools and information online before going through the trouble of finding attorneys specializing in student loans.
Of course, for more serious problems, hiring a student loan lawyer might be your only option. The following four questions can help ensure you hire a good one.
4 questions to ask before hiring a student loan lawyer
When you hire a lawyer for any purpose, you’re hiring someone who is overseen by a state licensing board. You can confirm their credentials by visiting your state bar’s website and scrolling through its directory of attorneys. If you can’t find yours, LawyerLegion.com has a helpful list of links.
Just remember that not every lawyer who’s passed the bar is right for your case. Here’s what to ask before moving forward.
1. Does your lawyer specialize in student loans?
In this day and age, you’re likely to start your search for a student loan lawyer online. And most of them should have a website. Reviewing sites is a wise first step, but don’t stop there:
- Perform an online search to see if the lawyers are affiliated with reputable associations like the National Consumer Law Center.
- Check lawyer review websites such as Avvo and the Better Business Bureau.
- Review the lawyer’s website to ensure they specialize in student loans.
“A general practitioner might not be best suited for student loan law,” said Simon Goldenberg, a debt relief lawyer. “Student loans should be a primary part of their practice because of the nuances and the vast remedies available. If they’re not, it might take longer, it might be more costly, and it might not get the best result for the client.”
Unfortunately, there is no industry standard certification you might look for in a student loan lawyer. One might tell you they’ve taken Joshua Cohen’s Student Loan Lawyer Workshop, but that’s not worth as much as a wealth of experience in the specialty.
Red flag: Be wary of lawyers who specialize in bankruptcy but don’t have as much direct experience with student debt. They might be more likely to lead you down the path to an unnecessary court proceeding.
2. Do they have experience solving a problem like yours?
Student loan lawyers should be adept at handling problems with both federal and private loan debt. More importantly, they should have experience working with a client like you.
The best way to see if this is the case is to be the interviewer during your initial consultation. Ask your potential lawyer these three questions:
- How many clients have you helped with a problem like mine?
- Can you walk me through an example of a similar case you managed?
- Given your experience, what outcome is reasonable to expect in my case?
If you have a student loan in default, for example, an experienced lawyer should at least be familiar with your lender. Better yet, they should have dealt with the lender directly before.
Red flag: Maybe a friend recently referred you to a student loan lawyer. Even if they had a good experience with the lawyer, it’s important to do your due diligence.
3. What are their fees, and what are the fees for?
Money is probably tight if you’re considering attorneys specializing in student loans. So you won’t want to waste it on hiring a lawyer who’ll try to shake you down.
Some lawyers might pull you in with a free consultation but then charge you higher fees. Make sure they earn your trust during the consultation before you decide to open your wallet.
Stanley Tate, a St. Louis, Missouri, student loan lawyer, charges the average potential client $450 per hour but recommends his clients pay flat fees for common services:
- $200 for document preparation
- $350 for a 45-minute review of the case
- $600 for a 60-to-90-minute strategy session and customized debt plan
- $1,000 to resolve a loan default
- $3,000 to negotiate a student loan debt settlement
- $4,000 for pre-trial work
- $5,000 or more to go to court
If fees like that are too costly, you might like to know that low-income clients could qualify for free legal advice or a pro bono attorney via the American Bar Association.
If you can afford to pay, you’ll want to find a student loan lawyer who is transparent about their pricing. Student loans are pretty black and white in the eyes of the law, so it should be easy to explain what’s being done to help your situation and why it costs what it costs.
That being said, student loans can also be incredibly confusing for the layman. You’re going to have questions along the way, even after hiring a lawyer. So think twice before hiring one that charges you for every phone call you make or every email you send to their office.
“Be wary of lawyers that charge hourly rates,” Goldenberg said. “Without flat rates, or a contingency payment plan, those hours might spin out of control — you might be 20 hours into your retainer with no end in sight.”
Red flag: A lawyer might help you with financing your dues. Although that can be helpful, be cautious about adding another monthly payment to your stack of bills.
4. Did they ever have student loans themselves?
If you believe that a lawyer has to have walked a mile in your shoes to best serve your interests, you’re not alone.
“If they resolved their own student loan problems, it could be a big help,” Tate said. “If they don’t understand the emotional burden of it … you could be hurt.”
Tate, for example, fought his way back from over $125,000 in debt from his education. He and other student loan lawyers like him bring that experience to the table, and it certainly helps them attract clients.
Red flag: A lawyer’s personal borrowing experience shouldn’t be the deciding factor when choosing a lawyer. But they should at least understand how you feel and have your best interests in mind.
Hiring a lawyer that can help with student loans
Ultimately, you’ll want to answer one bigger question: whether they can help you solve your student loan problem. That’s a big question, of course. So rely on these four smaller questions to decide whether you’re making a smart hire.
If you’re second-guessing whether you need a lawyer at all, tell our support team about your situation. We might be able to point you in the right direction.
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