Choosing between hiring a student loan lawyer and debt relief agency can seem like a tough call when trying to find a solution that will help you negotiate with creditors. However, debt relief agencies aren’t lawyers, so using them to handle the legal aspect of your finances doesn’t sound like a good idea.
Plus, debt relief agencies often promise that they can talk your creditors down from invoking civil court action while settling for pennies on the dollar. While this solution may work, facing a lawsuit or quasi-defaulting on your loans requires the expertise of an attorney to represent the facts of your case, particularly if the stakes get higher.
This article will explain student loan attorneys, the advantages and disadvantages of working with one, whether you should hire one and recommendations on how to find someone good for you.
What is a student loan attorney?
A student loan lawyer is a legal subject-matter expert who helps individuals with student loan debt in the form of federal student loans and private student loans. More specifically, they will offer legal advice, counsel, and representation when things do not go as planned with respect to student loan issues you may encounter during student loan repayment.
Student loan lawyers are different from student loan consultants that provide advice on strategies for repaying your debt. If you’re interested in working with a professional that can help you navigate repayment strategies, check out our section on student loan advice.
Student loan attorneys are better for guidance relating to bankruptcy or lawsuits filed against you by debt collectors. This professional is in a position to help you get out from underneath student loan loans or, at least, make them more manageable.
Twenty years ago, I doubt there were many people practicing as student loan lawyers, but given the massive amount of student loan debt in the marketplace today, it’s not surprising that lawyers have carved out a position in the world of student loans.
What situations might require you to hire a student loan lawyer?
Most people do not call lawyers because things are going well. You call a lawyer when something has gone wrong and it’s beyond your ability to fix it yourself.
However, if you’re being proactive about your student loan debt situation, it’s always best to reach out to a lawyer before you actually need one. Lawyers are very good at helping you navigate pitfalls in the future, and there’s often a lot more that can be done during the planning stage rather than contacting a lawyer after everything has fallen apart.
You know that it is time to hire a student loan lawyer or law firm when you are:
- Being sued on matters related to your student loan debt
- A victim of identity fraud and your detractor obtained a loan in your name
- Finished paying your loans but the servicer won’t update its records
- Facing a lawsuit for more than what you owe
- Hit with a lawsuit past your state’s statute of limitations
- Paying for a loan or student aid provided by or connected with a closed school
Is hiring a student loan attorney worth the expense?
The short and typical lawyer answer? It depends. Let’s take a closer look at the value student loan lawyers provide clients.
Understanding how to handle student loan debt, which is governed by tax and contract law, is confusing. Sure, most borrowers are aware of the underlying financial terms related to student loan debt. Still, it is challenging to determine which program provides the most benefit and long-term potential for your given situation.
Second, taking on the burden of negotiating with a servicer or company that is suing you is stressful. Lawyers that practice student loan law are a great resource that can act on your behalf (and better than you could act since they literally do this every day).
In short, a student loan lawyer will help you analyze your specific financial picture while providing legal advice that represents your interests. This strategy is something that a debt relief agency does not offer.
Other ways in which a student loan attorney can help you include:
- Establishing monthly payments pursuant to a revised repayment plan with a lender
- Getting you out of default and putting you into forbearance
- Ending wage garnishments or tax refund garnishments
- Ensuring a student loan servicer is correct counting Public Service Loan Forgiveness or other loan student loan forgiveness program payments
- Preventing debt collectors from contacting you
- Considering student loan debt relief or forgiveness
- Representing student loan borrowers in court against private and federal loan servicers
- Filing civil lawsuits against student loan servicers (e.g. Navient, Nelnet, FedLoan, etc.)
- Handling bankruptcy cases
- Fixing mistakes made with respect to consolidation, deferment, interest rates or payment plans.
- Defending you against negative statements on your credit score
- Student loan debt cancellation
As you can see, student loan lawyers are legal professionals who work on your behalf to find sources of debt relief from your existing student loan program. No matter what your financial state looks like, you can count on an attorney to protect your personal interests and rights throughout the entire process.
How much do student loan lawyers cost?
Let’s begin by understanding that the cost of hiring a student loan attorney varies based on the scope of representation, location, experience, economic conditions, and other influential elements. With that said, you can expect to pay anywhere between $500 and $5,000.
In determining whether these fees are worth it, consider this:
If a servicer is garnishing your wages or your credit rating is suffering, it is likely that the losses you are incurring exceed that of hiring a lawyer. Compound these losses monthly or annually, and it gives you an idea of what you are facing over the long-run.
Having a knowledgeable, experienced, and results-oriented legal professional in your corner can pay for itself if the attorney is successful in helping you negotiate a payoff with the creditor.
Can I handle my student loans without a lawyer?
You are under no legal obligation to hire a student loan attorney but is it something you really want to take on yourself? Unless you have legal training in bankruptcy law or experience negotiating with student loan servicers or the Department of Education, there’s a lot that a student loan lawyer can do to help you with your student loan payments and consumer protection issues.
If an attorney believes that you can handle a situation on your own, he or she will likely inform you of that.
Lawyers earn a living and stay in good standing with the bar association by helping you determine which program or solution is best for your situation and often only want to work with clients where they can make a material difference anyway.
Since nearly all lawyers will want an initial consultation, the most practical way to determine if you need a lawyer is by talking to one.
How to find a great student loan lawyer
Sometimes, the first-page results on popular search engines do not necessarily yield a list of the best student loan lawyers and law offices. For this reason, here’s a few tips on how you can perform your own due diligence when deciding which lawyer to hire:
- Check with your state’s bar association for the attorneys’ standing and disciplinary record
- Read articles that they have published online through their website and third-party publications to see if they are knowledgeable on the subject of student loans
- Read client reviews posted on search results and referral sites, like Nolo, FindLaw, Avvo, and Yelp
- Evaluate the answers carefully that the attorney provides during your initial consultation or case evaluation
- Take the attorney up on the offer of a free consultation to see whether you and the attorney feel like you’d be a good fit.
Student loans lawyers I know personally
Over the years of creating this blog and learning about student loans and personal finance, I’ve had the opportunity to meet a few people who are dedicated to working with borrowers who need legal help with respect to their student loans.
Most of these lawyers I’ve met at FinCon (the annual personal finance convention). In addition to meeting them in-person, I’ve often had the chance to read their books and listen to them on podcasts.
- Joshua Cohen. Works with people struggling with student loan problems and has written a few “plain English” books on how to understand student loans.
- Adam Minsky. Adam is based in Boston but helps borrowers nationwide with disputes with their servicers, how to manage hardship and default scenarios. He can help with litigation in Massachusetts.
- Jay Fleischman. Jay offers a flat fee 60-minute planning session for $295 where you can get answers to all your questions and a recommendation for the best way to solve your problem. If you end up working with him, the $295 is credited towards any further legal representation.
I would still do your due diligence, but I hope this gets you started in the right direction on finding a student loan lawyer to help you with your problem.
Joshua Holt is a former private equity M&A lawyer and the creator of Biglaw Investor. Josh couldn’t find a place where lawyers were talking about money, so he created it himself. He is always negotiating better student loan refinancing bonuses for readers of the site.