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4 Student Loan Forgiveness Options for Lawyers

Becoming a lawyer can be a strong first step on a lucrative and prestigious career path. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for lawyers was $119,250 in May 2017. However, it might cost you quite a bit before you can even take your state’s bar exam.

The average tuition at a private law school in the 2017-2018 academic year was $47,112, compared to $26,864 at a private law school. That doesn’t even account for how much you spent on your undergraduate degree before attending law school.

Another important point to keep in mind is that there is a huge range in pay for lawyers. You might not make six figures for a while, or at all depending on your selected specialty, employer size, demand, location, etc.

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.

Department of Justice Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program (ASLRP)

For each year that you work for the Department of Justice, ASLRP participants could earn up to $6,000 in loan assistance, with a lifetime maximum of $60,000.

It is important to note that lawyers are still expected to make personal payments toward their federal student loans while participating in the program, and failure to do so may result in disqualification. According to the ASLRP website, “the Department will match the annual amount that the recipient pays on his or her qualifying Federal student loans (up to the maximum of $6,000 per calendar year).” However, “there is an exception for recipients whose annual base salaries are less than $84,000 – those individuals will automatically receive the annual maximum repayment amount.”

Who is Eligible for the Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program?

To be eligible, employees of the Department of Justice must have at least $10,000 in eligible federal student loans. In order to accept the award, candidates need to commit to a three-year service with the Department of Justice.

How to Apply for the Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program

Check out the ASLRP website and key dates page to learn more about this option and important deadlines for applicants. It can be a competitive program, so keep that in mind when applying.

John R. Justice (JRJ) Student Loan Repayment Program

If you are a public defender, you could apply for the JRJ Student Loan Repayment Program and earn up to $10,000 per year for a maximum of $60,000. A part of accepting the award is agreeing to a three-year service agreement and continuing to work as a public defender.

The award is given out state by state with different requirements for each state. Top consideration is given to applicants who have the least ability to repay their loans on their own and those who have received JRJ benefits in the previous year.

Who is Eligible for the John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program?

Candidates must be employed as a public defender at an agency selected by the state they are applying in. Other requirements will vary state to state, so it is important to know your state’s requirement’s before applying.

How to Apply for the John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program

Each state provides their own funding for this particular program, so you will need to reach out to your own Governor-Designated State Agencies to learn the additional requirements for applicants and how to apply within your specific state. The deadlines and application dates may also vary by state.

Herbert S. Garten Loan Repayment Assistance Program

Created in 2005 for legal aid attorneys with large outstanding law school loans, this program uses a lottery system to select about 70 attorneys a year. Those selected can receive up to $5,600 per year for three years of qualified employment and program participation.

The number of winners selected can change based each year depends on funding levels. According to the program website, “in 2018, we awarded 80 legal aid attorneys a total of $1 million to assist them with student loan debt.”

Who is Eligible for the Herbert S. Garten Loan Repayment Assistance Program?

To be eligible to enter this lottery, you must be an attorney employed by one of the program’s grantees, with outstanding student loan debt of at least $75,000. Participating attorneys must use funds from the program to pay for qualifying law school loans and accrued interest.

How to Apply for the Herbert S. Garten Loan Repayment Assistance Program

Instructions for completing the application and renewal applications are on the program website, along with the cut-off and distribution dates.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)

This program isn’t specific to lawyers in the public sector, it could be another option for those seeking loan forgiveness. While the timeline for forgiveness is longer than other federal options, your total balance could be forgiven, making it a compelling option to consider.

Who is Eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program?

Borrowers eligible for PSLF need to make 120 qualifying payments while working full-time for a qualifying employer. Only Federal Direct Loans are eligible for PSLF.

The Federal Student Aid website includes complete descriptions of what a qualified payment, qualified employer, and full-time employment mean for PSLF applicants. However, the only way to be positive that you qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness now or in the future is to complete and submit the Employment Certification form as soon as possible.

How to Apply for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

After 120 qualifying payments (over at least 10 years), borrowers can apply for PSLF. The payments don’t need to be consecutive to apply. You will not automatically receive PSLF after 120 qualifying payments, you can then fill out and submit a PSLF application to receive loan forgiveness.

This article was written by Carolyn Pairitz Morris, Senior Editor at Earnest.

Disclaimer: This blog post provides personal finance educational information, and it is not intended to provide legal, financial, or tax advice.