The student loan debt crisis is real and, for many people, financially crippling. While various programs and strategies can help you reduce your monthly payments, cut interest rates, and even get help paying down your debt, student loans can still be very challenging for some.
If your situation is getting out of hand, you may consider hiring a student loan lawyer. Before you do, though, here’s what you need to know about what a student loan debt lawyer does and how they can help you in your particular situation.
What is a student loan lawyer?
This type of attorney provides student loan legal help to people experiencing issues that may be difficult to handle on their own.
Student loan debt lawyers have an advanced understanding of student loans, as well as the laws and policies surrounding them. They can also provide much-needed advice for difficult situations.
More specifically, here are some different reasons to consider hiring a student loan lawyer:
- They can represent you in court if you’re being sued by your loan servicer, lender, or a debt collection agency.
- They can help you understand your rights and provide you with your options based on your situation and goals.
- An attorney can represent you in all communications coming from a loan servicer, lender, or collection agency.
- They can help you file credit disputes if a creditor has reported inaccurate information.
- They can help you deal with a default or loan discharge, including settling for less than what you owe.
- An attorney can shield you from unfair and deceptive practices that creditors and collection agencies sometimes engage in.
All of these go for both federal and private student loans, even though private loans are regulated on the state level, not federal. Because laws are different in every state, a local attorney can be an excellent resource for where you live.
What’s the difference between a student loan debt lawyer and a student loan debt relief company?
As the student loan debt crisis worsens, companies have emerged promising relief for student loan borrowers. In most cases, though, the services they provide and charge for, such as helping you consolidate your federal loans or request an income-driven repayment plan, are things you can do on your own and for free.
In fact, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently sued a student loan debt relief company called Student Loan Pro for charging illegal fees to file paperwork for free programs provided by the Department of Education.
On the flip side, while a student loan debt lawyer will likely charge you for their services, they provide assistance in tricky situations where the solution may not be straightforward. They can also act as a barrier between you and the lender, servicer, or collection agency.
Should you seek student loan legal help?
It can be challenging to know when you’re in over your head with student loans. On the flip side, there are situations where seeking legal assistance is the wrong move.
For example, if you’ve had a bad customer service experience with your loan servicer, it’s likely unnecessary to bring an attorney into the mix.
But if you’re being sued by your lender or loan servicer, you’re considering filing bankruptcy, or you’re dealing with a serious delinquency or default, a student loan lawyer can at least consult you on which steps to take.
In particular, it can be extremely hard to get student loans included in a bankruptcy discharge. But the odds of that happening are much lower if you’re trying to handle the process yourself.
Each situation is different, and your decision on whether or not to hire an attorney to help will depend on how complex and dire your situation is, as well as what you can handle on your own.
Before you speak with an attorney, though, consider reaching out to your loan servicer or lender first. In some circumstances, you may be able to make a deal on your own. But if your debt has been sent to collections and you’re facing a potential lawsuit — not to mention harassment in some cases — an attorney may be your best bet to sleep well at night.
Are student loan attorneys affordable?
The cost of hiring an attorney can vary depending on your situation and who you’re working with. But in many cases, it can ultimately save you money and a huge headache to boot.
For example, a debt collector sues you, they may be seeking to garnish your wages, bank account, or even tax refunds. While hiring an attorney doesn’t guarantee you’ll prevent this from happening, it’ll give you a much better chance than if you were to go it alone.
Shop around and look for student loan lawyers in your area. Ask about their prices and if they offer a free consultation. Make sure you’re clear about your situation upfront, so the estimates will be based on the same information. Also, check to see if they offer a free initial consultation. Paying someone for that first session when you don’t even know if they’re a good fit is entirely unnecessary.
Also, take a look at the costs you may incur, such as interest, late payments, collection charges, and more. Then compare those to the cost of hiring an attorney. In some cases, you may end up coming out better than you would have otherwise.
Where else can I learn about student loans?
If you’re thinking about handling your student loan situation yourself or you simply want to learn more, there are several resources available to you. Depending on the situation, a little research is all you need to resolve the issue.
For starters, the National Consumer Law Center provides valuable information on both federal and private student loans. Other websites like Student Loan Hero, and The College Investor all provide a wealth of resources you can use to learn just about anything about your student debt.
Finally, your student loan servicer or lender may provide the information you need to resolve your issue.
The bottom line
Hiring a student loan debt lawyer can help you get out of a sticky situation. That’s especially the case if you’re considering bankruptcy or a debt collector has contacted you.
But remember, before you take that step to consult with an attorney, research and exhaust all of the other options that you can do on your own.
For example, let’s say you’re just struggling to keep up with your monthly payments. In this case, you may be able to consolidate your loans with a longer repayment term or get on an income-driven repayment plan. Both of these programs are free and easy to apply for.
Also, don’t forget to speak with your lender or loan servicer to find out if they offer some kind of relief to help you get back on your feet.
But if you’ve tried everything and you don’t anticipate being able to get out of your situation on your own, seeking student loan legal help may be the best path forward.
The most important thing is that you take the time to compare attorneys and the services they offer. You’ll also want to compare how much they charge. If you simply take the first offer you get, you may end up leaving money on the table.