Young lawyers struggle with anxiety, stress and guilt over their law school debt, and their loans are causing them to delay traditional life pursuits, such as purchasing a home, getting married and starting a family, according to a soon-to-be released report by the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division (YLD) and the AccessLex Institute Center for Legal Education Excellence.
The compelling results are from a survey of more than 1,300 members representing attorneys and law school graduates in big law, solo practice, government, industry, non-profit settings, and JD-advantage positions, among others. Respondents were under age 36 and earned a law degree or were licensed in the last 10 years. The report will be released in September and offers a series of recommendations for how policymakers and legal education stakeholders can work to advance law school affordability and financial education. The report will be available at ambar.org/debt.
“This survey clearly demonstrates the profoundly negative impact that student debt has on many young lawyers,” said ABA President Reginald M. Turner. “The results underscore the need for the federal government to aid graduates by providing student loan debt relief, and to assist the young and prospective lawyers seeking loans to finance their legal education.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic lingers, the ABA has been advocating for continued student debt relief. In November 2020, we sent letters to Congressional leadership requesting an extension of the provisions originally contained in the March 2020 CARES Act that suspended federal loan payments, postponed collections on defaulted loans, and reduced interest rates to zero percent. President Joe Biden signed an executive order continuing the moratorium on federal student loan payments through Sept. 30, 2021, and recently decided to further extend the moratorium until January 31, 2022.
The ABA is also working with partners toward a more long-term solution to resolving the student loan debt crisis by actively advocating for the federal government to provide relief. The ABA’s Governmental Affairs Office and Young Lawyers Division leaders already met with numerous congressional offices in both the Senate and House of Representatives. This past June, the ABA also sent a letter backing student loan debt relief to Richard Cordray, chief operating officer of the Office of Federal Student Aid within the Department of Education, requesting his support for student loan debt forgiveness, strengthening the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, and providing borrowers with more flexible options to refinance their loans.
As part of those efforts, the ABA is working with other organizations to host the “Student Debt Week of Action” September 20-24, a week of online advocacy events aimed at getting Congress to address the national problem surrounding student debt. Hear from members of Congress, industry experts, and fellow ABA members as they discuss the issues. Join the conversation online and use tools on the ABA website to contact your members of Congress directly.
For more information, visit ambar.org/debt4giveness and follow us on Twitter for the latest updates @ABAGrassroots.