Studying law is not a promised path to gainful employment or six figures. Many lawyers face unemployment and burdensome student loan debt, instead.
Fortunately, there are law school loan forgiveness and student loan assistance programs out there to help with that lingering debt from college — and even more for those who dedicate their lives to public service. Here’s our guide to student loan forgiveness for lawyers, as well as some programs that might help you pay off some of your student loan debt.
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness for Lawyers
- Department of Justice Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program
- John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program
- The Herbert S. Garten Loan Repayment Assistance Program
- Loan repayment assistance programs (LRAPs)
- Income-driven repayment plans
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program forgives your remaining federal loans once you’ve made 120 qualified payments while working for a qualified employer. Eligible employment includes positions in the government and nonprofit sectors. Candidates must work full time and make consecutive payments.
The Department of Justice offers an Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program (ASLRP) in an effort to recruit and retain lawyers in the field. Each spring, the agency opens up applications to current employees for the assistance program. To be eligible, employees of the Department of Justice must have at least $10,000 in federal student loans.
Eligible loans include:
- Stafford Loans
- Supplemental Loans
- Plus Loans
- Federal Consolidation Loans
- Defense Loans (made before July 1, 1972)
- National Direct Student Loans (made between July 1, 1972 and July 1, 1987)
- William D. Ford Direct Student Loans
- Perkins Loans
- The Nursing Student Loan Program loans
- The Health Profession Student Loan Program loans
- The Health Education Assistance Loan Program loans
Eligible candidates can receive up to $6,000 per calendar year, with a lifetime maximum of $60,000 in assistance. Your payment will be sent to your loan servicer and not you directly. In order to accept the award, candidates need to commit to a three-year service with the Department of Justice.
Note that assistance provided through this program is considered taxable income, which is subject to additional withholdings. While this program may be a good option for those working for the Department of Justice, it can be highly competitive.
Are you looking to work in the public sector? You’re in luck! The John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program provides assistance for lawyers working as public defenders. Eligible candidates can receive up to $10,000 per year, with a maximum award of $60,000.
Each state is provided with funding for this particular program, so you’ll want to contact the Governor-Designated State Agencies to learn how to apply within your specific state. Candidates must be employed as public defenders for at least three years.
This assistance program uses a lottery system to offer awards to qualified attorneys. The attorney must be employed by one of the program’s grantees and have outstanding student loan debt of at least $75,000. This program awards up to $5,600 to roughly 125 attorneys each year.
Newly graduated lawyers who are saddled with student loans and are deterred from taking positions in the public sector also have options. Many law schools have come up with Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAPs) to ease the financial burden and attract attorneys to the public sector.
Typically, these programs have salary requirements. The actual amount you receive as part of your assistance depends on your law school.
In addition to LRAPs by school, there are numerous programs offered by certain states, such as the following:
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
If you live in the D.C. area, you may be able to qualify for up to $12,000 per year in repayment assistance.
The District of Columbia Bar Foundation Loan Repayment Assistance Program seeks lawyers working with low-income individuals. Eligible candidates must be in good standing with the D.C. Bar, employed by a qualified organization and work at least 17 hours per week. In addition, applicants’ gross income must be less than $90,000 in 2020. (Learn more)
The Florida Bar Foundation has a Loan Repayment Assistance Program that awards up to $5,000 per year to lawyers who work at legal aid or legal services organizations. Eligible candidates must work full-time or part-time for a foundation-supported organization. (Learn more)
The Indiana Bar Foundation offers assistance through the Justice Richard M. Givan Loan Repayment Assistance Program, which is geared toward law school graduates working in the nonprofit sector. The program is specifically designed for law school graduates who have incurred significant educational debt.
Eligible candidates must not make more than $70,000 annually. The program awards a maximum of $5,000 per year per eligible candidate. (Learn more)
The Louisiana Bar Foundation has an assistance program that offers up to $5,000 per year to lawyers working at an organization that is supported by the foundation. Applicants must be employed full-time and have a gross salary of $65,000 or less. In addition, they must reapply each year to be considered for funding. (Learn more)
The University of Maine School of Law Loan Repayment Assistance Program provides loan assistance to lawyers working in a public interest organization, such as a nonprofit, who make less than $50,000 per year. Candidates can receive an award of $1,500 to $3,000 annually. (Learn more)
Maryland residents working as attorneys in the public sector with low-income or underserved residents might be eligible for assistance through the Janet L. Hoffman Loan Assistance Repayment Program.
Eligible candidates must have received their degree from a college in Maryland and be employed full time and making $60,000 or less. The award amount is between $1,500 and $10,000 per year, depending on your debt load. (Learn more)
The Loan Repayment Assistance Program of Minnesota offers assistance to graduates from a Minnesota law school working at a qualified nonprofit serving low-income communities. The gross income requirement depends on your years of service.
For example, if you’re an entry-level attorney at a qualifying nonprofit, your income cannot exceed $51,000.
Awards are based on your years of employment and calculated individually for each applicant. Eligible candidates can have 80% to 95% of their payments covered. (Learn more)
The Montana Justice Foundation has a Loan Repayment Assistance Program for legal aid lawyers working with underserved communities.
A maximum of $2,500 may be awarded to eligible candidates. Applicants must work full-time. If the number of applicants exceeds the amount of resources, the Board of Directors will decide how the funds should be used. (Learn more)
The New Hampshire Bar Foundation has a Law School Loan Repayment Assistance Program to help attorneys working with qualified public agencies within underserved communities in New Hampshire.
Attorneys can work full time or part time at a qualifying agency, such as the Disabilities Rights Center. The total award amount is a percentage of your income, based on a variety of factors including how much assistance you may have received from other sources. (Learn more)
The New Mexico Public Service Law Loan Repayment Assistance Program offers educational assistance for attorneys working in the public or nonprofit sectors.
Eligible candidates must earn a salary of $75,000 or less. Candidates must be working for a qualified employment site and commit to three years. The maximum award is $7,200 per year. (Learn more)
In New York, the District Attorney and Indigent Legal Services Attorney Loan Forgiveness Program offers assistance to attorneys that are employed as District Attorneys, Assistant District Attorneys or Indigent Legal Services Attorneys.
Applicants must be residents of New York State and have a year of full-time, qualified service under their belts. This is one of the more generous programs, with a maximum total award of $20,400 paid in annual disbursements of $3,400. (Learn more)
The North Carolina Legal Education Assistance Foundation helps recruit and retain public interest attorneys by offering repayment assistance. Funding has been provided to help public-interest attorneys in Mecklenburg County. (Learn more)
The Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation has a Loan Repayment Assistance Program to help recruit and retain attorneys working with Ohio’s poor and underserved communities. (Learn more)
The Oregon State Bar has a Loan Repayment Assistance Program to help attract and retain public service attorneys. Eligible candidates must work at a qualifying nonprofit or agency with a salary that does not exceed $65,000.
In addition, applicants must have $35,000 or more in outstanding student loan debt. An award of $7,500 per year is available for up to three years. (Learn more)
The Pennsylvania Bar Foundation has a Loan Repayment Assistance Program that aims to help lawyers understand their student loan debt and make it more manageable to stay in public service.
An eligible candidate’s salary must not exceed $66,000. The total award amount will depend on the number of candidates and available funding. (Learn more)
The Texas Student Loan Repayment Assistance Program is funded by the State Bar of Texas and offers repayment assistance to those who choose to work in legal aid in Texas. The program offers assistance to approximately 125 attorneys. At this time, applicants’ salaries should not exceed $80,000, and the yearly maximum award is $6,000. (Learn more)
The Vermont Bar Foundation has a Loan Repayment Assistance Program that offers loan assistance for attorneys working in the nonprofit sector and helping low-income individuals and families.
Lawyers must be licensed in Vermont and be employed at a qualified organization. Eligible candidates’ salaries must not exceed $60,000. Applicants may be eligible for up to $5,000 per year. Former participants may apply again for future funding cycles. (Learn more)
A lot of the aforementioned assistance programs require you to work at a qualifying nonprofit or agency and work under strict income limitations. If you don’t qualify for one of those programs and you have federal loans, consider an income-driven repayment plan.
Income-Based Repayment (IBR): Your monthly payments are capped at 10% to 15% of your income, depending on when you took out your loan. To qualify for IBR, your proposed payment must be less than what it would be under the 10-year Standard Repayment Plan. The repayment period is 20 to 25 years — any balance remaining after that will be forgiven but may be subject to additional taxes.
Pay As You Earn (PAYE): Monthly payments are capped at 10% of your income. To qualify, your proposed payment must be less than what it would be under the 10-year Standard Repayment Plan. The repayment period is 20 years — any balance remaining after that will be forgiven but may be subject to additional taxes.
Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE): Payments are capped at 10% of your discretionary income, which is calculated according to your adjusted gross income minus 150% of the poverty state guideline. Remaining student loan balances are forgiven once you’ve made 20 years of eligible payments.
Income-Contingent Plan: Monthly payments are capped at 20% of your discretionary income under an Income-Contingent Plan. The repayment period is 25 years, after which any remaining balance is forgiven (though forgiven debt might be subject to additional taxes).
Graduating with huge law school loans is tough, but there may be options to get some assistance from your employer, state and more. Check out these options to see if you qualify for some form of assistance or forgiveness.
Christina Majaski contributed to this report.
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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 October 1, 2020.
2 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.
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 September 9, 2020. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
4 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 2.98% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.49% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.34% 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 October 26, 2020, 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 10/26/2020. 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 protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
© 2020 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.
5 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.
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 11/13/2020 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.97% to 8.54% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.95% to 8.77% Fixed APR with AutoPay.