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 out 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.
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 a guy 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.
Student loan lawyers vs. 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 the assistance of legal counsel, but given the right situation, it could be a good investment.
According to attorney Adam S. Minsky of BostonStudentLoanLawyer.com, 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.”
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 to find — and afford — a 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. A good first step would be checking your state’s bar association or using the National Association of Consumer Advocates’ “Find an Attorney” tool. The National Association of Bankruptcy Attorneys also has a database of lawyers you can consult.
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 you 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.
Kat Tretina contributed to this report.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2019!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
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1 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
2 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.50% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.89% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.49% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.27% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate 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 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of April 17, 2019, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 04/17/2019. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at email@example.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
3 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the fixed rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular fixed interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
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.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
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.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). 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 2.48% effective April 10, 2019.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|2.49% – 7.27%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.49% – 6.65%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.49% – 7.41%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.50% – 6.65%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.49% – 7.11%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.98% – 9.72%6||Undergrad & Graduate|