App version: 0.1.0

Student Debt Attorneys, Explained

Student Debt Attorneys, Explained
Rebecca Safier
Rebecca SafierUpdated January 18, 2023
Share this article:
Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
If you’re dealing with complicated student loan problems, you might want to consider hiring a student debt attorney to help you resolve them. A student loan lawyer can assist you through bankruptcy proceedings, getting your loans out of default, and other complex issues. How do you know when it’s time to call in a student debt attorney? Read on to learn more about student loan lawyers and what they can (and can’t) do to help you with student debt. 

What Are Student Debt Attorneys?

Student debt attorneys specialize in helping student loan borrowers navigate issues with their education debt. They typically know state and national laws regarding student loans and can inform you about your rights as a borrower. A student loan attorney can help you get your loans out of default, or negotiate with a debt collector for a potentially lower settlement for paying off a student loanIn addition, student loan lawyers can tell you if your loan servicer or a debt collector is engaging in abusive practices, as well as what you can do about it. They can also represent borrowers in bankruptcy proceedings, and help those who have been defrauded get student loan discharge. And they may be able to assist if you have been a victim of student loan forgiveness scamsBut keep in mind that student debt lawyers can’t get rid of your debt or promise any kind of loan cancellation. In many cases, you can solve student loan problems on your own for no fee, whether you want to get your loans out of default or switch to a different repayment plan. However, hiring a student loan lawyer might be useful and worth the expense depending on how serious your situation is. With student loan debt in the U.S. reaching an estimated $1.7 trillion, we are in what some call a crisis of student debt, and more borrowers may need help to avoid going into default or filing for bankruptcy.

How Do Student Debt Attorneys Work?

A student debt attorney may offer an initial video or in-person consultation to discuss your situation. If they seem like they could help and you want to hire them, you may need to pay a retainer or hourly fee for their services. Show up to your first official meeting with all the pertinent information about the specific problems you want to address, as well as any important documentation, such as loan statements or communications from debt collectors. “I like to tell people that it is a good idea to have an attorney if there is a judge involved,” says Michael Lux, attorney and founder of The Student Loan Sherpa. “Borrowers sometimes get sued by their lender, and sometimes borrowers have to sue their lender. When this happens it is helpful to have an experienced attorney on your side.”

What Student Loan Lawyers Can and Can’t Do

Generally, student loan lawyers can give you legal advice, represent you in communications with lenders and loan servicers, and represent you in litigation involving student loans. However, specific services vary by lawyer.  Some of the services that student loan lawyers may typically provide include: 
  • Negotiate with debt collectors. Some debt collectors will accept a smaller lump-sum payment in a process known as debt settlement
  • Represent your interests when communicating with loan servicers or collections agencies  
  • Help you apply for “borrower defense to repayment,” a program that cancels student loans for borrowers who were defrauded by their schools 
  • Guide you through applying for student loan bankruptcy and/or represent you in court 
  • Assist you if your loans are in default 
  • Provide you with legal advice about your rights and options 
However, there are limitations to what student loan lawyers can offer. Things they can’t do include:
  • Guarantee that your student loans will be discharged in bankruptcy. In fact, getting student loans wiped away in bankruptcy is difficult. 
  • Get your student loans discharged without a valid reason, such as a total and permanent disability 
  • Instantly get your student loans out of default. This process usually takes some time and may require you to apply for loan consolidation or rehabilitation. 

How Much Student Loan Lawyers Charge

The fees for student loan lawyers vary, but you can typically expect to pay a minimum of $500 and up to several thousand or more. The more complex your issue, the more it may cost you to work with a lawyer. Some student loan lawyers charge a flat fee for their services, so you’ll know exactly how much the cost will be before you begin working with them. Others will charge an hourly fee. That means the more you need to meet with them, the more you’ll pay. You might also be responsible for a retainer, which is a one-time, upfront fee that you pay at the beginning to retain the lawyer’s services. Some lawyers work on contingency, in which case they’ll only get paid if you receive a positive outcome, such as a favorable settlement. This contingency fee structure is more common if a lawyer is representing a group of people in a class action lawsuit against a large loan servicer for something like misleading borrowers about repayment plans and programs forgiving student debt

Pros and Cons of Hiring a Student Loan Lawyer

Before hiring a student loan lawyer, consider both the pros and cons of doing so. 
Get legal advice about your rights and options Costs may be high and difficult to afford
Lawyer can communicate with servicers and debt collectors on your behalf You can find free resources online that may be able to help you
Attorney can represent you in court You may not necessarily need a lawyer for court, depending on the situation
Lawyer may be able to help you navigate repayment plans and discharge programs You can apply for repayment plans, consolidation, rehabilitation, and other student loan programs on your own for free 

Pros of Hiring a Student Loan Lawyer

  • A knowledgeable professional can provide you with legal advice about your rights and options as a borrower. 
  • Your lawyer can communicate and negotiate with loan servicers and debt collectors on your behalf. 
  • Your attorney may be able to represent you in court if you’re being sued or trying to discharge your loans in bankruptcy. 
  • Your lawyer might be able to help you navigate different student loan repayment plans and loan discharge programs so you can find options that are the right fit for your situation. 

Cons of Hiring a Student Loan Lawyer

  • The costs of attorneys for student loans can add up, which may not be worth it if you’re already experiencing financial distress.
  • You can find lots of free resources and information from trusted sources online, including the Federal Student Aid website. 
  • You don’t necessarily need a lawyer to represent you in court proceedings, depending on the situation. 
  • You may be able to resolve many student loan issues on your own for free. For example, it doesn’t cost anything to apply for an alternative repayment plan, loan consolidation, or loan rehabilitation. You may even want to consider refinancing your student loans. But first, make sure you understand the refinancing a student loan pros and cons.

Finding and Vetting a Student Loan Lawyer

If you’re looking for a lawyer to help with your education debt, make sure to find someone who specializes in student loans. Some resources that can help include, 
  • National Association of Consumer Advocates 
  • American Bar Association 
  • National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (if you’re thinking about filing for bankruptcy)
You can also look for affordable legal assistance from a local legal aid clinic or your state’s bar association. Hiring a local lawyer could be especially helpful if you’re dealing with private student loans, as you’ll want someone with knowledge of your state’s student loan laws. Before hiring a lawyer, find out if they offer a free consultation. Show up prepared with questions to see if the lawyer seems knowledgeable about your situation and explains things clearly. Make sure you understand what their services will cost so you don’t get any surprises. You can also check reviews from sites like Google and Avvo, a site for attorneys, to see what other clients have to say about their experiences. Another wise idea is to look up the lawyer on the website of your state’s bar association to make sure they are in good standing and haven’t been subject to any disciplinary actions. 

The Takeaway

Student loan debt can be a tremendous financial burden. If you’re struggling to solve student loan issues, hiring a lawyer might be the next best step. But keep in mind that there are resolutions you can try on your own for free. For instance, use trusted resources to learn about your options for repayment and loan rehabilitation. And learn about your rights as a borrower, especially when it comes to debt collectors and discharge programs. If your student loan situation has become complicated, though, a lawyer might be able to help you sort it out. Depending on your circumstances, you might decide the legal fees are worth it. 

3 Student Loan Tips

  1. Refinancing your student loan can lower your monthly payments and help you adjust your loan term. Compare student loan refinancing rates to find a loan that works for you.
  2. One pain-free way to pay down your student loan sooner: send in your tax refund to put against the principal balance. Since it’s money that has already been taken out of your pay, you won’t miss it.
  3. If you teach full-time for five complete and consecutive academic years in a low-income school, you may be eligible for federal student loan forgiveness.
Check your student loan refinancing rates and terms with Lantern.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you sue your student loan company?
Can you go to jail for failing to pay off student loans?
Can you negotiate your student loans down with your student loan company?

About the Author

Rebecca Safier

Rebecca Safier

Rebecca Safier has nearly a decade of experience writing about personal finance. Formerly a senior writer with LendingTree and Student Loan Hero, she specializes in student loans, financial aid, and personal loans. She is certified as a student loan counselor with the National Association of Certified Credit Counselors (NACCC).
Share this article: