Lawyers are a valuable asset to society. They protect our rights, help resolve disputes, and maintain the integrity of our legal system. However, lawyers have one thing in common with everyone else: they all need an education! Attending law school is expensive. Most schools cost over $100,000 per year for tuition alone. Additionally, there are books, living expenses, and other incidentals like bar review courses or state exam fees, and you’re looking at a hefty sum of debt before even entering the workforce as a lawyer.
The good news is that there are ways out of your student loan debt if you qualify for some form of forgiveness program! This article will discuss various types of student loan forgiveness programs available to lawyers.
What is student loan forgiveness for lawyers?
Student loan forgiveness for lawyers is a benefit. Lawyers who meet specific criteria can have some or all of their student loans forgiven by the federal government and state government if they work in specific jobs, such as district attorney, public defender, or military lawyer.
If you are looking for support paying back your education debt, the following programs might be worth looking into if you are interested in practicing in the public sector.
What are the Forgiveness Options for Lawyers?
There are many student loan forgiveness programs available to lawyers. Some of the most common include but aren’t limited to Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and Teacher Student Loan Forgiveness. You can learn more about these options here.
What is Public Service Loan Forgiveness?
Public Service Loan Forgiveness is a benefit for lawyers and other public service employees. Lawyers who work for the government in positions that serve the community, such as district attorney, public defender, or military lawyer, can have their federal student loans forgiven after 120 consecutive payments.
Who qualifies for Public Student Loan Forgiveness?
Not everyone can take advantage of PSLF simply because not every lawyer works in the public sector. Private attorneys don’t provide free services to qualify for forgiveness under these circumstances.
What about the Teacher Student Loan Forgiveness Program?
Another great option for lawyers is becoming a teacher and taking advantage of the “Teacher Loan Repayment” program.
This requires you to work as an elementary or secondary school teacher for at least 30 hours each week while working directly under contract with the state education department, local government, or 501(c)(C) nonprofit organization that provides direct instruction to low-income students. You can learn more here.
What is the Department of Justice Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program (ASLRP)?
The Department of Justice (DOJ) also has a student loan repayment program for attorneys called the “Department Of Justice Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program” (ASLRP). This is an excellent opportunity available to federal law school graduates who want to work as government prosecutors or public defenders. The ASLRP pays up to $12,000 per year in the full repayment of your qualifying loans. You can learn more here.
How to Apply for the Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program?
Employees of the Department of Justice must have at least $10,000 of qualifying federal student loans to be eligible. In addition, candidates must sign a three-year service agreement with the Department of Justice to accept the award.
What is John R. Justice’s (JRJ) Student Loan Repayment Program?
The John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program is an Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) program, U.S. Department of Justice, created to assist state and local prosecutors in their fight against crime. It is by offering them monetary assistance to help repay their educational debt related to obtaining advanced degrees or other specialized training needed for service as a prosecutor.
As part of its mission, OVC provides funding support for eligible public interest attorneys who are dedicated to working with underserved victims and vulnerable populations such as children, minorities, immigrants, senior citizens, survivors of rape and sexual assault. There may also be opportunities available through your employer (if you work in the district attorney’s office) so check with your HR department as well.
Who is Eligible for the John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program?
If you work for a public defender’s office, you may be eligible for the JRJ Student Loan Repayment Program, which pays up to $10,000 per year for a maximum of $60,000. Accepting the award includes agreeing to a three-year service agreement and continuing to work as a public defender.
How to Apply for the John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program?
Employees of a public defender’s office must have at least $20,000 in qualifying federal student loans to be eligible. Candidates must reach out to their Governor-Designated State Agencies to apply.
What is Herbert S. Garten Loan Repayment Assistance Program?
The Herbert S. Garten Loan Repayment Assistance Program, also known as LRAP, is a federal program that provides loan repayment assistance to legal services attorneys who work in areas of national need.
The purpose of this funding can be used in providing civil legal aid and criminal representation, training programs for private attorneys working on behalf of low-income clients, law school clinical courses, and academic research projects helping meet the needs of people with limited resources.
How much money do I get? This award has recently been set at $26,000 per year over three years ($7800/yr), so you will receive up to $25K each year (for a maximum total amount of $75K).
How do I apply?
You will need to submit a cover letter, resume, and your most recent income tax return. You must also identify two qualified references who are familiar with your work experience, as well as the name of one attorney at a legal services organization with whom you have personally worked for or supervised.
Your reference can be from any nonprofit entity that does not receive federal funding (i.e., state-based legal assistance program), nor is it associated with an educational institution governed by Title IV of Federal Education Law. In addition, there may be opportunities available through your employer so check with the HR department.
Who Can Apply:
Attorneys who can apply should work in poverty law organizations that provide civil representation in areas of national need.
- Attorneys for public defender offices (private attorneys were working on behalf of low-income clients)
- Legal services organizations that provide civil representation to those in poverty.
What are the Benefits?
This program provides up to $25,000 per year over three years ($75K maximum), used towards any qualifying student loan(s). In addition, if selected, you must commit to working at your sponsoring organization for a minimum of three years. To learn more about this opportunity, visit here.
If you are a public interest lawyer
The public service mortgage forgiving eliminates federal student loan balances with government or other nonprofit services for ten years. Twenty-three states, as well as several law schools, pay borrowers through LRAP programs. In addition, the Department of Justice matches attorney student loans of up to $6,000.
The American Bar Alliance lists state LRAP programs that offer personal student loans and bar exam loans. Also, ask your law faculty if they offer loan forgiveness. Forgiveness programs are not mutually exclusive, and you can use each program you qualify for to use any program you are eligible including the ASLRP.
Why should you contact a lawyer for your student loan forgiveness today?
Attorney student loans are notoriously difficult to repay. The average attorney makes $151,350 a year, which is insufficient to cover loan balances of up to six figures for graduates with no assistance. If you have federal or private student loans as an attorney, contact a lawyer specializing in LRAPs today! A qualified LRAP professional can prepare your application and simplify the process so that you do not miss out on opportunities like the NextGen Program offered by Columbia Law School (which provides 90% repayment).
The American Bar Association lists over 50 law schools offering these programs, and 23 states funding 100 percent of debt payments under certain conditions.
What should you expect when working with a student loan attorney?
A qualified LRAP professional can assist in answering questions about the process of qualifying for federal and state programs and how to navigate your options under each program best.
Be aware that all states have different requirements, so having an attorney specializing in LRAPs is extremely helpful. In addition, many repayment programs overlap, which means you could be eligible for more than one program – saving even more money on monthly payments while providing public interest law services at no cost to taxpayers or clients.
Consider other options like student loan refinancing.
Student loans are not dischargeable by bankruptcy, so, therefore, they will continue to accrue interest over time. However, if your current debt is unaffordable, you should consider student loan refinancing if you have high-interest rates or a less-than-perfect credit score. Refinancing can help consolidate debts into one manageable payment with lower monthly payments and even save money in the long run. EdFed helps you in saving thousands of dollars. Feel free to check it using our Student Loan Refinancing Calculator.
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