When Is It Time to Hire a Student Loan Lawyer?

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Being buried in student loan debt isn’t fun. But there are times when your student loan debt is more than just a burden — it’s a nightmare. If your debt situation has reached a critical level, you may want to consider seeking a student loan lawyer.

Working with a student loan attorney can be a serious next step. The following guide will help break down how they can help and illustrate when it’s worth seeking out a lawyer for student loans, by answering the following questions:

What is a student loan lawyer?

First, you may be wondering what a student loan attorney even is.

“A student loan lawyer is a lawyer with advanced knowledge of student loans — not [someone] who says, ‘You can’t do anything about student loans,’” said Joshua Cohen, who runs a student loan legal practice of his own, along with his site TheStudentLoanLawyer.com.

A student loan lawyer can help you navigate the complicated world of student loans and shed light on some tricky situations.

“They understand the ins and outs of both federal and private student loans, all the differences, [as well as] the way to maneuver through the federal system, getting folks out of default and onto affordable repayment plans, and how to use the law with or without a lawsuit to make the system work for the borrower,” said Cohen.

What’s the difference between student loan lawyers and student loan debt relief agencies?

In recent years, many companies have sprouted up claiming that they can help you with your student loans. In return for a fee, they promise to consolidate your loans or reduce your payments.

These student loan debt relief companies are often expensive. Even worse, many of the services they offer — such as reducing your monthly payment by signing up for an income-driven repayment plan — are things you can do for yourself for free.

Student loan lawyers are quite different from student loan debt relief agencies. While student loan attorneys will charge you a fee for their service, they provide essential assistance rather than doing what you could easily do yourself. They also act as your advocate, negotiating with your loan servicer or even filing a lawsuit, if warranted.

How can a student loan attorney help you?

Before hiring a student loan lawyer, it’s important to know how they can help you. Not everyone needs legal counsel, but given the right situation, it could be a good investment.

According to college debt expert, attorney Adam Minsky, a student loan lawyer can help you in the following ways:

  • They can provide you with legal advice and guidance regarding your rights and options.
  • They can represent your interests in communications or negotiations with a student loan holder, student loan servicer, debt collection agency or administrative body.
  • A lawyer can help you resolve delinquencies or defaults or apply for loan discharge.
  • They can protect you from unfair or abusive conduct by debt collectors and other agencies.
  • They can handle credit disputes.
  • A lawyer can represent you in court if needed.

As you can see, these situations are more than just “I hate my loan servicer and don’t know what to do about it.”

If you’re dealing with delinquency or default or considering filing for bankruptcy, a student loan lawyer may be able to help.

Student loan lawyers can help you with the nuances of private student loans, too.

“A lawyer should always be consulted when dealing with private loans, as those are subject to state law,” Cohen said. “What works in one state may not work in another. Only a licensed attorney in that particular state will know what can and can’t work.”

Should you hire a student loan lawyer?

Now that you have a better idea of how a student loan lawyer can help, should you hire one? Is it the right time?

“Every person is different, and every situation is different. Whether someone should contact a student loan lawyer really depends on your specific circumstances,” said Minsky.

“There are really very few matters that inherently requires you to hire an attorney — even filing for bankruptcy or defending against a collections lawsuit can be done ‘pro se,’ meaning without legal representation,” Minsky said.

While you may not need a student loan lawyer, hiring one can be immensely useful if you require some assistance dealing with your specific situation. Student loan lawyers can share their expertise and offer solutions — solutions that you might be able to figure out on your own, but only after extensive research and a ton of time.

Although Minsky believes not everyone needs to hire a student loan lawyer, he said that “having an attorney representing you can be enormously helpful if you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re not sure of your legal options, you’ve been sued or you’re dealing with a complex legal issue.”

How can you find an affordable student loan attorney?

If you’re struggling with your student loans, you may wonder how you can even afford a student loan lawyer.

“Most times, a lawyer is cheaper than the alternative, such as a wage garnishment,” said Cohen. “Many attorneys, including myself, can find ways to finance a borrower.”

It’s important to do a cost-benefit analysis: How much are you paying in fees, interest and other costs in your current situation? What will you pay for a student loan lawyer who can help you get out of that situation?

“I also find most attorneys are cheaper than the consolidation companies, while offering far better service and options,” Cohen said.

If you decide that hiring an attorney is right for you, finding one that specializes in student loans may be challenging. With the following resources, however, you’ll have a much easier time finding an effective and, hopefully, pro bono student loan lawyer:

National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA)

The NACA is a bar association of 1,500-plus consumer rights attorneys. A special section of its website is reserved for consumers having trouble with the servicing or collection of federal and private student loans.

Using its attorney directory, you can select student loans (or bankruptcy) from the drop-down menu, plus the state where you live. Each clickable search result will offer the lawyer’s areas of expertise in greater detail.

National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA)

Counting bankruptcy attorneys as members, the NACBA works at the legislative level to represent consumers in debt. But it also offers more basic resources for its audience. Using the website’s directory of member lawyers, you can search by name or firm.

American Bar Association (ABA)

The ABA is a professional organization with nearly 400,000 members, has three kinds of resources by state:

  1. Pro bono assistance programs
  2. Local, regional bar associations
  3. Lawyer referral services

You’ll have to do some navigating on these websites to find programs and lawyers that specialize in student loans.

Don’t worry if you’re coming up empty on your state’s ABA-approved offerings. You could also contact your state’s consumer protection office. USA.gov has a helpful directory.

Legal Services Corporation (LSC)

If you’re a student loan borrower with low income and the ABA’s pro bono offerings were lacking in your state, check out the LSC. The nonprofit funds 132 legal aid programs to help individuals at or near poverty level struggling with five types of issues, including consumers with student loans.

To find an LSC-funded program near you, enter your zip code on its map of programs, or click on your state’s list.

Lawyer review websites

Whether or not you can find a lawyer using the resources above, it makes sense to vet potential representation by seeing how they rate among former clients. Lean on resources like Avvo or LegalZoom, or see how far you can get simply by Googling the lawyer’s name.

If, however, you don’t feel you’re ready to resort to an attorney just yet, consider doing some research on your own.

“People can get free information on student loans from various sources,” says Minsky. “For example, the National Consumer Law Center has some great student loan information on their website.” (And of course, Student Loan Hero has lots of helpful info and tools as well.)

Student loan lawyers can help if you find yourself in a difficult situation that you can’t get out of on your own. If you’re deep in the trenches and dealing with default or bankruptcy, you might want to consider looking for legal help.

But before hiring a student loan attorney, talk to your loan servicer about your options and repayment alternatives. If you can’t come to a resolution, you may need a student loan lawyer with expertise to support you on your repayment journey.

This blog does not provide legal advice. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney directly. 

Andrew Pentis and Kat Tretina contributed to this report.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 9 lenders of 2021!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
1.88% – 6.15%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Splash

1.88% – 5.64%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

1.88% – 5.64%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit NaviRefi

2.50% – 6.85%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit CommonBond

2.25% – 6.39%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

1.90% – 5.25%6Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

1.89% – 5.90%7Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

2.39% – 6.01%Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Elfi

2.13% – 5.25%8Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit PenFed

Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.

Splash Financial Disclosures

Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount

The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.

To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of June 1, 2021.


2 Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

Interest Rate Disclosure

Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 2.59% APR to 5.79% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 1.88% APR to 5.64% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 36% (the maximum allowable for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate student loan refinance loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 2.04% and 5.8% to the one month LIBOR. Earnest rate ranges are current as of 6/8/2021, and are subject to change based on market conditions.

Auto Pay Discount Disclosure

You can take advantage of the Auto Pay interest rate reduction by setting up and maintaining active and automatic ACH withdrawal of your loan payment. The interest rate reduction for Auto Pay will be available only while your loan is enrolled in Auto Pay. Interest rate incentives for utilizing Auto Pay may not be combined with certain private student loan repayment programs that also offer an interest rate reduction. For multi-party loans, only one party may enroll in Auto Pay.

Student Loan Refinancing Loan Cost Examples

These examples provide estimates based on payments beginning immediately upon loan disbursement. Variable APR: A $10,000 loan with a 20-year term (240 monthly payments of $72) and a 5.89% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $17,042.39. For a variable loan, after your starting rate is set, your rate will then vary with the market. Fixed APR: A $10,000 loan with a 20-year term (240 monthly payments of $72) and a 6.04% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $17,249.77. Your actual repayment terms may vary.Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest. com/terms-of-service, e-mail us at [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.

Earnest Loans are made by Earnest Operations LLC or One American Bank, Member FDIC. Earnest Operations LLC, NMLS #1204917. 535 Mission St., Suite 1663, San Francisco, CA 94105. California Financing Law License 6054788. Visit earnest.com/licenses for a full list of licensed states. For California residents (Student Loan Refinance Only): Loans will be arranged or made pursuant to a California Financing Law License.

One American Bank, 515 S. Minnesota Ave, Sioux Falls, SD 57104. Earnest loans are serviced by Earnest Operations LLC with support from Navient Solutions LLC (NMLS #212430). One American Bank and Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.

© 2021 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved.


3 Important Disclosures for Navient.

Navient Disclosures

1. NaviRefi loans are made by Earnest Operations LLC, a member of the Navient family of companies, subject to individual approval and underwriting criteria. California residents only: Loans made or arranged pursuant to a California Finance Lenders Law license. Additional terms and conditions apply.

– To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or non-citizen permanent resident of the United States, reside in a state we lend in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.navirefi.com/help-and-questions. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Loan terms are subject to eligibility. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application. Loan approval is subject to confirmation that your debt-to-income, free cash flow, credit history and application information meet the minimum requirements. You must have a minimum FICO score to be considered.

– You can choose between fixed and variable rates. Fixed interest rates are 2.75% – 6.04% APR (2.50% – 5.79% APR with Auto Pay discount). Starting variable interest rates are 2.13% – 5.89% APR (1.88% – 5.64% APR with Auto Pay discount). Variable rates are based on an index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) plus a margin. Variable rates are reset monthly based on the fluctuation of the index. We do not currently offer variable rate loans in AK, CO, CT, HI, IL, KY, MA, MN, MS, NH, OH, OK, SC, TN, TX, and VA.

– You can take advantage of the 0.25% Auto Pay interest rate reduction by setting up and maintaining active and automatic ACH withdrawal of your loan payment. The interest rate reduction for Auto Pay will be available only while your loan is enrolled in Auto Pay. Interest rate incentives for utilizing Auto Pay may not be combined with certain private student loan repayment programs that also offer an interest rate reduction. NaviRefi rate ranges are current as of June 1, 2021 and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.

– The information provided on this page is updated as of 06/1/2021. Earnest Operations LLC reserves the right to modify or discontinue (in whole or in part) this loan program and its associated services and benefits at any time without notice. Check www.navirefi.com for the most up-to-date information. Terms and Conditions apply. Call 855-284-4893 for more information on our student loan refinance product.

– Earnest Operations LLC – NMLS #1204917, CA CFL #6054788 – 535 Mission St., Suite 1663, San Francisco, CA 94105.
Navient Solutions, LLC – NMLS #212430 – 123 Justison St., Wilmington, DE 19801. Visit https://navirefi.com/lending-licenses for a full list of licensed states.


4 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. ‍All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.15% effective Jan 1, 2021 and may increase after consummation.


5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

Fixed rates from 2.74% APR to 6.74% APR (with autopay). Variable rates from 2.25% APR to 6.39% APR (with autopay). All variable rates are based on the 1-month LIBOR and may increase after consummation if LIBOR increases; see more at SoFi.com/legal/#1. If approved for a loan your rate will depend on a variety of factors such as your credit profile, your application and your selected loan terms. Your rate will be within the ranges of rates listed above. Lowest rates reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers, or may become available, such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license #6054612; NMLS #1121636 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org). Additional terms and conditions apply; see SoFi.com/eligibility for details. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.


6 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it  endorse,  any educational institution.

Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of  5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.

As of 04/07/2021 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.90% APR – 5.25% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.95% APR – 7.63% Fixed APR with AutoPay.


7 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

All credit products are subject to credit approval.

Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.

As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.

  1. Checking your rate with Laurel Road only requires a soft credit pull, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.
  2. Savings vary based on rate and term of your existing and refinanced loan(s). Refinancing to a longer term may lower your monthly payments, but may also increase the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Refinancing to a shorter term may increase your monthly payments, but may lower the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Review your loan documentation for total cost of your refinanced loan.
  3. After loan disbursement, if a borrower documents a qualifying economic hardship, we may agree in our discretion to allow for full or partial forbearance of payments for one or more 3-month time periods (not to exceed 12 months in the aggregate during the term of your loan), provided that we receive acceptable documentation (including updating documentation) of the nature and expected duration of the borrower’s economic hardship. During any period of forbearance interest will continue to accrue. At the end of the forbearance period, any unpaid accrued interest will be capitalized and be added to the remaining principle amount of the loan.
  4. Automatic Payment (“AutoPay”) Discount: if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically from a bank account, the interest rate will decrease by 0.25% and will increase back if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically from the borrower’s bank account. The 0.25% AutoPay discount will not reduce the monthly payment; instead, the discount is applied to the principal to help pay the loan down faster.

Assumptions: Repayment examples above assume a loan amount of $10,000 with repayment beginning immediately following disbursement. Repayment examples do not include the 0.25% AutoPay Discount.

Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.

Interest Rate: A simple annual rate that is applied to an unpaid balance.

Variable Rates: The current index for variable rate loans is derived from the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) and changes in the LIBOR index may cause your monthly payment to increase. Borrowers who take out a term of 5, 7, or 10 years will have a maximum interest rate of 9%, those who take out a 15 or 20-year variable loan will have a maximum interest rate of 10%.

KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.

This information is current as of April 29, 2021. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
 


8 Important Disclosures for PenFed.

PenFed Disclosures

Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed Rates range from 2.89%-4.78% APR and Variable Rates range from 2.13%-5.25% APR. Both Fixed and Variable Rates will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. For Variable Rate student loans, the rate will never exceed 9.00% for 5 year and 8 year loans and 10.00% for 12 and 15 years loans (the maximum allowable for this loan). Minimum variable rate will be 2.00%. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.