The Ultimate Guide to Refinancing Law School Loans

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Refinancing with Earnest

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School doesn’t come cheap these days, and law school is absolutely no exception to the rule. If you’re one of the many lawyers in the U.S. who invested six figures of student loans into your education, pay attention.

While you still have to pay on those loans, there are ways you can make your payments more manageable. In fact, there’s even a way to make it so you can pay them off faster. Here’s how.

Where do you stand based on average law school debt?

After making it through law school, studying for the bar, and then eventually working long hours when you find employment, it’s understandable if your law school debt was the last thing on your mind.

That said, it’s important to understand exactly what you’re dealing with. Here are some recent statistics from Earnest on average law school debt to help you compare where you stand:

  • Current average law school debt is hovering at $139,900.
  • Law school graduates have some of the highest debt-to-income of the most popular graduate degrees.
  • Where you got your JD can impact how long it takes to repay your law school loans.
law school loans

Image Credit: Earnest

Why should you refinance law school loans?

If you want to ease the burden of your law school debt, one strategy is to refinance your law school loans.

Refinancing enables you to see if you can get a lower interest rate. And a lower interest rate will free up more of that money you’re working around the clock for to go straight to your principal balance.

But that’s not the only benefit of refinancing your loans. Doing so could also help you achieve a more favorable repayment plan, depending on what that means to you.

For example, if you want to get out of debt as soon as possible and have the income to manage it, you can opt for a shorter repayment plan. Or, if you’re looking for more flexibility in your repayment, you can opt for a longer repayment plan that might lower your monthly payments.

Of course, there’s always the hybrid option: choose a longer repayment plan and then apply any extra money to your student loan payments on top of the minimum amount due. For instance, you can use your tax refund, your bonuses at work, and any gift money you get from loved ones.

This strategy enables you to have a lower monthly payment so you don’t feel financially stretched. It also makes it possible for you to pay extra and get out of debt faster than your repayment plan suggests.

In short, refinancing your loans can help you achieve a better interest rate and repayment terms that work for you.

How much can you save by refinancing law school loans?

The question that remains is whether or not the time put into refinancing will end up being worth it for you. You can find the answer to this question pretty quickly by plugging your student loan numbers into our Student Loan Refinancing Calculator.

But for fun, let’s run through a few scenarios.

Scenario 1: Refinancing on a 20-year repayment plan

Let’s say you’re right at the average of law degree student loan borrowers. You have:

  • $140,000 in federal loans
  • An average professional degree interest rate of 5.31%
  • A 20-year repayment plan.

At this rate, you’re going to pay an additional $87,539 in interest on top of you $140,000 in student debt.

But, let’s say you decide to refinance and end up with a fixed interest rate of 3.37%. With that new rate and a 20-year repayment plan, you will:

  • Pay $52,629 in interest, saving you $34,910.
  • Decrease your monthly payment from $948 to $803, saving you $145 a month.

Scenario 2: Refinancing on a 10-year repayment plan

Now let’s imagine that you have more room in your monthly budget and want to get really aggressive on your debt payoff. Instead of a 20-year repayment plan, you opt for a 10-year repayment plan with that same 3.37% fixed interest rate.

With your new plan:

  • You’ll only pay $25,107 in interest, with a savings of $62,244.
  • You get out of student loan debt 10 years faster.
  • Your payment would go up from $947 to $1,376.

Even though your monthly payments will go up, if you have the room in your budget and you want to get out of debt ASAP, then it might be worth it.

After all, you’d be saving more than $60,000 in interest by refinancing with a 10-year repayment plan. Imagine what else you could do with $60,000 besides paying student loan interest.

How to refinance your law school loans

If you’re considering refinancing your law school debt, just know that you can see what you might qualify for without having to take a hit on your credit score. Plus, if you’re earning a high income and have a good credit score, you have a good chance of approval.

1. Compare offers

Many private student loan refinancing lenders do what’s called a soft pull on your credit score. This means they can see what you prequalify for before actually requesting your credit report. So you can collect multiple offers and only apply for the best one for you.

To see what you might prequalify for, check out some of the top private student loan refinancing lenders. You’ll be able to see most of their eligibility requirements along with the range of rates and terms they offer.

2. Choose the best loan for your payoff goals

If you do a few preliminary applications to compare offers, then you’ll want to think carefully before you choose a winner. It might be tempting to go with the lowest interest rate, but there are other important factors to consider as well.

Here are a few things to think about as you choose the right loan for you:

  • Is the interest rate lower than what you have now?
  • Does the lender offer other benefits, such as auto-pay interest rate deduction, unemployment protection, interest-only payments if you hit a financial snag, or co-signer release?
  • Can you afford the monthly payment amounts for your preferred plan?
  • Is your main goal to lower your payments or your amount of years in debt?

3. Remember that you’ll lose federal loan benefits

Finally, there’s one more thing to think about: are you okay with losing federal protections on your student loans?

Whenever you refinance a federal student loan, you’re effectively paying it off with a private student loan. That means you lose access to income-driven repayment plans, forgiveness options, as well as forbearance and deferment.

If you can reasonably assume you won’t need protections like these in the future – or if you earn enough to pay your student loans off before any huge life changes might happen – then perhaps that’s not an issue.

But, if you’ve started your own practice or question your career safety in your firm or the business you’re working for, then losing federal student loan benefits is something you should weigh carefully.

Other options for managing your law school debt

While refinancing is one of the most effective ways to save money on interest and pay off law school loans faster, it’s not the only option you have.

If you’re a lawyer who opted to work for the government or non-profits rather than a firm, you might be frustrated with your debt to income ratio and your ability to get approved for refinancing. But if your law school loans are federal loans, then you’re in luck.

People who work full-time for government organizations and 501(c)(3) non-profits can potentially qualify to have their student loans forgiven through Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF).

How it works is you would first enroll in an income-driven repayment plan to lower your monthly payments to a certain percentage of your income. Then you can apply for forgiveness under PSLF after you make 120 qualifying PSLF payments.

However, keep in mind that you may have to pay taxes on the remaining balance that’s forgiven.

One other note about PSLF. It’s a useful tool for a lawyer working for qualifying companies and who needs a break on their monthly payment amounts.

If you’re just starting out in law school, don’t go crazy on student loans just because you think this program will be available to you. The laws around student loans can change at any time, as many would-be PSLF borrowers recently found out.

Take control of your law school loans now

Whether you opt for a student loan refinance or other options for handling your law school loans, just make sure you, well, handle them.

Here’s some advice on student loan repayment from a lawyer in the same boat.

“I’d encourage anyone who is passionate and strategic about the law to do real financial planning so that they can make an informed decision on their true ROI,” said immigration lawyer Renata Castro. “Invest in yourself, this is the only investment where you have true control of the outcome!”

By taking your student loans by the reins now, you have an opportunity to optimize your repayment and pay them off much faster than a standard repayment plan offers. Plus, it will feel like you get an instant pay raise when you see all the money that was going to your loans go straight to your bank account instead.

Handle your loans now so you can build the future you’re dreaming of and focus on what you really care about: practicing law.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 6 lenders of 2018!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

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 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.97% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.30% 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 Month/Day/Year, 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 08/21/18. 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 hello@earnest.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent 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.


2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

APR stands for “Annual Percentage Rate.” Rates listed include a 0.25% EFT discount, for automatic payments made from a checking or savings account. Interest rates as of 11/8/2018. Rates subject to change.

Variable rate options consist of a range from 3.27% per year to 6.09% per year for a 5-year term, 4.64% per year to 6.14% per year for a 7-year term, 4.69% per year to 6.19% per year for a 10-year term, 4.94% per year to 6.44% per year for a 15-year term, or 5.19% per year to 6.69% per year for a 20-year term, with no origination fees. APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rate will change on the first day of every month (“Change Date”) if the Current Index changes. The variable interest rates are based on a Current Index, which is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) (currency in US dollars), as published on The Wall Street Journal’s website. The variable interest rates and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will increase or decrease when the 1-month LIBOR index changes. The variable interest rates are calculated by adding a margin ranging from 0.98% to 3.80% for the 5-year term loan, 2.35% to 3.85% for the 7-year term loan, 2.40% to 3.90% for the 10-year term loan, 2.65% to 4.15% for the 15-year term loan, and 2.90% to 4.40% for the 20-year term loan, respectively, to the 1-month LIBOR index published on the 25th day of each month immediately preceding each “Change Date,” as defined above, rounded to two decimal places, with no origination fees. If the 25th day of the month is not a business day or is a US federal holiday, the reference date will be the most recent date preceding the 25th day of the month that is a business day. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 3.27% per year to 6.09% per year for a 5-year term would be from $180.89 to $193.75. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.64% per year to 6.14% per year for a 7-year term would be from $139.65 to $146.76. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.69% per year to 6.19% per year for a 10-year term would be from $104.56 to $111.98. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.94% per year to 6.44% per year for a 15-year term would be from $78.77 to $86.78. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.19% per year to 6.69% per year for a 20-year term would be from $67.05 to $75.68.

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.


3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance: Fixed rates from 3.899% APR to 7.979% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.470% APR to 6.990% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.470% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 2.30% plus 0.91% margin minus 0.25% ACH discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score.
  2. Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

4 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.


5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

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 2.28% effective October 10, 2018.


6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Education Refinance Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of November 1, 2018, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.29%. Variable interest rates range from 2.79%-8.39% (2.79%-8.39% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Fixed interest rates range from 3.75%-8.69% (3.75%-8.69% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Lowest rates shown require application with a cosigner, are for eligible, creditworthy applicants with a graduate level degree, require a 5-year repayment term and include our Loyalty discount and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. The maximum variable rate on the Education Refinance Loan is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. 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. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of their loan.
  2. Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer with the Education Refinance Loan. Borrowers should carefully review their current benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans and replace those with the benefits of the Education Refinance Loan. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision at http://www.citizensbank.com/EdRefinance, including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
  3. Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan Eligibility: Eligible applicants may not be currently enrolled. Applicants with an Associate’s degree or with no degree must have made at least 12 qualifying payments after leaving school. Qualifying payments are the most recent on time and consecutive payments of principal and interest on the loans being refinanced. Primary borrowers must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. Resident aliens must apply with a cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The cosigner (if applicable) must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a cosigner will be required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Education Refinance Loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, certification of borrower’s student loan amount(s) and highest degree earned.
  4. Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  5. Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
  6. Co-signer Release: Borrowers may apply for co-signer release after making 36 consecutive on-time payments of principal and interest. For the purpose of the application for co-signer release, on-time payments are defined as payments received within 15 days of the due date. Interest only payments do not qualify. The borrower must meet certain credit and eligibility guidelines when applying for the co-signer release. Borrowers must complete an application for release and provide income verification documents as part of the review. Borrowers who use deferment or forbearance will need to make 36 consecutive on-time payments after reentering repayment to qualify for release. The borrower applying for co-signer release must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If an application for co-signer release is denied, the borrower may not reapply for co-signer release until at least one year from the date the application for co-signer release was received. Terms and conditions apply.

2.47% – 6.99%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

2.47% – 6.30%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

2.51% – 8.09%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

3.02% – 6.44%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

2.69% – 7.21%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit CommonBond

2.79% – 8.39%6Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Citizens

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.