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Do You Need a Student Loan Lawyer? (Complete Guide)

George Simons | December 01, 2022

You can defend yourself against debt collectors.

Summary: Thinking you'll never be able to repay your student loans? If you're considering hiring a student loan lawyer, read this post and learn what you should do to deal with your student loan debt.

If you have a proverbial mountain of student loan debt and are struggling to service the monthly payments, you may be feeling overwhelmed and unsure about your financial future. You may even be considering the prospect of filing for bankruptcy to help take some of the debt burden off your shoulders. If you find yourself in this situation, you may be wondering, “Do I need a student loan lawyer?” The answer depends on your particular situation.

Services Provided by Most Student Loan Lawyers

Attorneys who help individuals struggling with delinquent student loans are professionals who typically specialize in understanding, and navigating, the rules and regulations governing private and federal student loans. Student loan lawyers can provide various services, including:

  • Assist you in negotiating with financial institutions to modify repayment terms or lower your interest rates;
  • Provide legal advice on how to respond to a lender or debt collection agency;
  • Represent you if you are sued by a lender or debt collection agency.

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When It Makes Sense to Retain the Services of a Student Loan Lawyer

Retaining a student loan lawyer may make sense if you find yourself in one, or more, of the following situations:

  • You were served with a lawsuit filed by your student loan servicer or debt collection agency related to unpaid student loan;
  • You are being harassed by a student loan servicer or debt collection agency
  • You need assistance understanding your legal rights related to delinquent student loan debt issues;
  • You need a legal professional to represent you and effectively communicate with credit bureaus, debt collectors, lenders, servicers, and so forth; or
  • You need legal guidance on how to properly prepare, complete, and/or review a contractual agreement.

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The Cost of Hiring a Student Loan Lawyer

It is important to understand that retaining a reputable and skilled student loan lawyer is not free. This is particularly important when someone is already struggling to stay current with their student loan debt and other monthly expenses. Depending on your situation, you could wind up paying hundreds of dollars an hour for the services provided by a reputable student loan lawyer. However, if you are confronted with a situation where a student loan lender or debt collector is attempting to garnish your wages, the amount paid to a lawyer who can take steps to protect your personal assets and checking account may be worthwhile.

Nevertheless, before you agree to move forward with legal representation, you need to be fully comfortable with the rates of the student loan lawyer and their payment plans.

Generally, there are four types of fee structures utilized by most student loan lawyers. When you first meet with an attorney, you should ask for details about how the lawyer expects to be compensated for their services. Here is an overview of the most common fee structures for a student loan lawyer:

Nominal Fee for a Brief Consultation

​If you are attempting to get legal advice on a tight budget, it may be possible to pay an attorney a “consultation fee” to cover the cost of a brief meeting with the lawyer. During this meeting, you will get the chance to ask direct, specific questions about your situation and receive counsel from the lawyer. The amount of the consultation fee generally depends on where you reside, the length of the consultation with the student loan lawyer, and the pricing structure for the attorney you meet with.

Hourly Fee / Retainer Agreement

The vast majority of student loan lawyers operate under hourly fee/retainer agreements. This fee structure typically involves paying for the attorney's time at a stipulated hourly rate. In addition to the hourly fee, you will also be required to pay an initial “retainer” fee (commonly referred to as an advance fee deposit). The retainer fee will generally cover a certain amount of billable time upfront. For example, many lawyers require a retainer fee between $5,000 and $10,000. If the student loan lawyer can resolve your issue before the retainer fee is exhausted, the balance would get returned to you. If, on the other hand, the retainer fee is depleted before your legal issue is resolved, the attorney may ask you to replenish the retainer.

Flat Fee Legal Representation

Even though most student loan lawyers operate under the hourly fee/retainer agreement structure, some lawyers bill differently. For example, they offer a flat fee that covers specific legal services. This is also known as a project-based legal fee structure. For example, if you are looking for an attorney to help you with completing an application that will help get you into an income-based student loan repayment plan, the lawyer will likely be able to assist with this project under a flat fee structure.

Contingency Fee Agreement

​In certain instances, a student loan lawyer may be able to your case based upon a contingency fee agreement. Basically, under a contingency fee agreement, a lawyer's compensation is contingent upon you prevailing in your case. This is particularly attractive to clients with limited income who simply cannot afford to pay a $5,000 retainer fee to secure the services of a lawyer. It is important to note that a contingency fee agreement is only available for specific types of cases, such as consumer rights lawsuits against third-party debt collectors or other similar companies for violations of specific laws.

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What an Attorney Can Do to Assist With Your Student Loan Debt

Hiring a student loan lawyer is different than contacting a student loan assistance company or non-profit. ​The practice of law is a regulated profession and is overseen by state licensing boards. This means lawyers, including student loan lawyers, are held to strict rules regarding client confidentiality. In other words, attorneys are accountable not just to you, but also to the licensing board in their state. As a result, you have a level of protection when you hire an attorney to assist with your student loans. This is in contrast to services offered by unlicensed companies and organizations that offer assistance with student loans online.

Conversely, there ​are consulting companies and non-profit organizations that may be able to provide guidance and advice on how to help respond to student loan servicers, student loan lenders, debt collectors, etc. related to a delinquent student loan debt. For example, many companies provide access to standardized forms and response letter templates you can use without having to shell out a large sum of money.

If you decide to hire a student loan lawyer, they will typically be able to help with the following issues that typically arise with your student loan debt: First, they can provide sound advice and guidance regarding your legal rights and options for how to respond to a debt collector seeking repayment for delinquent student loans. An experienced student loan lawyer can also provide direct representation and advocacy when communicating with a debt collector, student loan lender, credit bureaus, government agencies, and courts.

Also, a student loan lawyer can help negotiate with a student loan lender, student loan servicer, and/or a debt collection agency to resolve your delinquent debt issues. A skilled student loan lawyer can also assist with preparing, completing, and reviewing student loan-related documents, including settlement agreements, contractual agreements, applications, correspondence, and court filings. Finally, a student loan lawyer can represent you and advocate for your best interests in court.

How to Locate a Respected Student Loan Lawyer

​If you are interested in retaining the services of a student loan lawyer, it is extremely important to hire a lawyer who is respected in the legal community and possesses a level of expertise and knowledge in this area of law.

A good starting point is to research the attorneys affiliated with the National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA). Attorneys affiliated with NACA generally focus their legal practice on representing consumers and borrowers who are being hounded and sued by debt collectors, including debt collectors pursuing repayment for delinquent student loan debt. Another option is to reach out to a local bar association in your state. Many state bar associations offer referral services to individuals. In addition to state bar associations, you can conduct research online by searching for student loan lawyers on independent review sites such as Avvo, Nolo, Justia, and so forth. Avvo, in particular, features reviews from clients and endorsements from peer attorneys.

If you locate a student loan lawyer that appeals to you and you may want to hire, it is important to cross-reference the name of the student loan attorney with your state bar association to determine if they have any disciplinary record or negative marks. The key is to conduct sufficient due diligence so you hire a qualified and competent student loan lawyer.

The answer to whether you need a student loan lawyer will depend on your unique circumstances. For example, you may not need a lawyer and could effectively negotiate with your student loan lender on your own to get into a more accommodating repayment plan that features more manageable monthly payments. If, on the other hand, you are being hounded by a debt collector or have been served with a debt collection lawsuit related to delinquent student loans, it may make sense to contact a student loan lawyer.

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