Student loan lawyers specialize in helping borrowers handle their student loan debt. They provide legal counsel when you’re struggling financially and represent you if you need to go to court. But they can be expensive. Before you hire an attorney, make sure you’ve exhausted all other options first.
When should I hire a student loan lawyer?
You might want to schedule a consultation with a student loan lawyer if you find yourself in one of these situations.
You can’t solve an issue yourself
Sometimes you just don’t have the expertise to advocate for yourself with your loan servicer. A student loan lawyer can help you resolve some of the following issues:
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program denial
- Incorrect marks on your credit report
- Disputes with a loan servicer
- Harassment from a collection agency
- Understanding your legal rights and options after default
You’re being sued
If you defaulted on your loans, a student loan lawyer can help protect you from aggressive letters and phone calls — and even litigation. They can go over your rights and legal options and guide you toward the steps you need to take to ensure you don’t get taken advantage of.
You’re filing bankruptcy
Student debt is a lot more difficult to discharge in bankruptcy than other types of debt. You have to prove to a judge that your loans are causing undue hardship, which can be hard to do without the a legal professional.
You might want to look for a student loan lawyer that specializes in bankruptcy or a bankruptcy lawyer to help you out. You may even be able to find one willing to work with you pro bono.
When shouldn’t I hire a student loan lawyer?
Avoid hiring a lawyer if you can solve the issue yourself. Generally, you can handle the following situations by reaching out to your loan servicer — or refinancing with another lender if your servicer is unresponsive.
- Changing a repayment plan
- Consolidating federal loans
- Applying for deferment or forbearance
- Federal loan default rehabilitation
- Negotiating a lower rate or longer terms
- Changing your servicer
How much does a student loan lawyer cost?
A student loan lawyer can range from $500 to $5,000, according to Tate Law Firm, depending on the services you use. If you can find a pro bono lawyer, it might be free.
Here are some common types of fees you might come across.
- Consultation fee. This is a limited initial session where you discuss the situation and learn about your legal options.
- Hourly fee and retainer. If you need to meet with the lawyer multiple times, you’ll have to pay an hourly fee as well as a retainer — an upfront fee that acts as a deposit.
- Flat fee. Some student loan lawyers only charge a flat fee for certain services, no matter how long the process takes.
What are the benefits of working with a student loan lawyer?
It may not always be necessary, but hiring an attorney does have a few benefits:
- Trained to deal with student loans. Lawyers that deal with student loan debt have been trained to help clients develop strategies to handle delinquency, default and collections.
- Highly regulated. All lawyers must follow specific practice laws and are accountable to the state bar. If you find that your lawyer isn’t working in your best interest, there are legal avenues to deal with malpractice.
- Legal advice and guidance. A student loan lawyer will be able to give you legal advice, guidance about your rights and help you handle any paperwork involved in your student loan debt.
- Representation in court. If it comes to it, a student loan lawyer can represent you in court and at the settlement table.
What should I do before hiring a student loan lawyer?
Hiring a student loan lawyer — or even paying for a consultation — can cost more money than you have. Since even the lawyers themselves often consider their services a last resort, try these free options before turning to an attorney:
- Reach out to a student loan ombudsman. An ombudsman is an official third party that handles complaints against student loan providers and servicers. There are three ombudsman options depending on the complaint you have and the type of loan.
- Consider an income-driven repayment plan. There are federal student loan repayment plans based on your income that can help if you’re struggling to afford monthly repayments on your federal student loans.
- Sign up for student loan rehabilitation. If you already defaulted, you may want to consider student loan rehabilitation. Once you complete rehabilitation, the default is erased from your credit report and your loan benefits become available again.
- Consolidate your federal loans. If you have an issue with a servicer — or simply don’t want to make multiple monthly repayments — you can consolidate your federal student loans. And unlike some consolidation options, the federal Direct Consolidation Loan is still eligible for most repayment plans.
- Refinance your private loans. Private lenders don’t typically offer multiple repayment plans, but you can refinance your student loans to get a lower rate or a longer term, which could lower your monthly payments. If you’re dealing with an unhelpful servicer, refinancing is also a way to switch to a different company.
- Request deferment or forbearance. Federal loans, and most private lenders, have deferment and forbearance available to people facing a difficult financial situation.
Where can I find a student loan lawyer?
You can contact the National Association of Consumer Advocates. Lawyers in this organization work in consumer rights, and some may handle student loans. Another good place to start is your state bar association, which may be able to give you a referral to a student loan lawyer in your area.
But research the law firm first to make sure it’s credible. Look up the lawyer’s licenses and read customer reviews to get a better of what to expect as a client.
What happens if I already defaulted on my student loan debt?
Your first step should always be to request a debt validation letter from the collection company. After that, it may be in your best interest to contact a student loan lawyer and consider a strategy to deal with your default. A lawyer can guide you toward the best solution for your situation and help you come to a settlement if one is possible.
Compare student loan consolidation and refinancing offers
If you’re being sued or have issues with your student loans that you’re struggling to fix yourself, a student loan lawyer may be able to help. But hiring one isn’t cheap, so it’s best saved as a last resort.
You might want to consider refinancing your private student loans or consolidating your federal student loans before hiring legal help. Or check out 14 other places to turn to for help with your student loans.
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