Loan Repayment Programs


Many of today's law graduates are faced with law school debt of more than $150,000 upon graduation. With a median starting public interest salary in civil legal aid in the mid $40,000s and only somewhat higher for public defenders and prosecutors, these mortgage-size debts bar many graduates from pursuing public service legal jobs.  

Loan repayment assistance programs ("LRAPs") and loan forgiveness programs have emerged as a solution for relieving the debt burden of some law graduates.  LRAPs provide loan repayment or lower loan payments to graduates entering specific types of employment, usually law-related public interest jobs. Most LRAPs and loan forgiveness programs contain limits on the amount of income a recipient can earn while participating in such a program. There are various types of LRAPs, administered by law schools, state bar associations and foundations and federal and state governments, providing debt relief to some law graduates.

Federal Loan Repayment

More options are now available to make payments on federal student loans more manageable. Repayment plans such as Income Based Repayment (IBR), Income Contingent Repayment (ICR), Pay as You Earn (PAYE), and Revised Pay as You Earn (REPAYE), provide borrowers more realistic monthly payments when they are in lower-paying jobs. Even less recent law graduates can often change their payment plan to REPAYE to reduce their payments. In addition, these repayment plans provide loan forgiveness after 20 or 25 years, depending on the plan. The Resources available here can help law students and attorneys determine the type of loan repayment plan that is best for their federal student loans.

Federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Attorneys who work for a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, the government, or a few other qualified employers may be eligible for forgiveness of their federal direct loans after making 120 payments and meeting other qualifications. This option can make the financial situation of a public interest attorney much more manageable. For more information about Federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness, click here.

Statewide Loan Repayment Assistance Programs

Some student loan assistance is available at the state level. Twenty-six Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAPs) in 24 states provide loans or grants to civil legal aid attorneys and in some cases, other public interest attorneys, to help them pay their educational debt.  Many of these programs are set up to comply with the tax code provision that makes the assistance non-taxable income, which helps even more. More information about these programs is available here.

Individuals who are interested in creating a statewide LRAP may find selected sections from the ABA’s State LRAP Tool Kit a Resource Guide for Creating State Loan Repayment Assistance Programs for Public Service Lawyers helpful.

Employer Loan Repayment Assistance

Many civil legal aid organizations and some other public interest employers provide loan repayment assistance to their attorneys. A centralized list of employer programs has not been compiled, so law students and attorneys need to discuss the possible availability of such assistance with individual potential employers.