A student loan lawyer is a general term to describe the types of problems an attorney handles. It does not, however, always mean the same thing.
Until the late 19th century, most people didn’t go to law school – they apprenticed in a process called “reading law”. It wasn’t until 1906 that the Association of American Law Schools adopted a requirement that law school consist of a three-year course of study.
Many of the most famous attorneys in American history didn’t go to law school. In fact, Abraham Lincoln didn’t even go to college – he had less than a year of formal schooling and no law school.
It was a simpler time, with fewer laws on the books and so less of a need for specialized knowledge.
But as things got more complicated, lawyers started to specialize. If you get picked up on a DUI charge, you call a lawyer that handles those types of cases. If you’re getting deported, you call an immigration lawyer.
There is, however, no such thing as student loan law. There’s no single law or regulation that contains everything you need to know about student loans. Instead, the term “student loan law” is a catch-all way to describe how a variety of different areas of law impact the financial obligations taken on by people who need to borrow money for their education.
Federal student loans are governed by the regulations put into place by the Higher Education Act of 1965. Those regulations have been amended and expanded over the years, supplemented by a variety of Executive Orders and policies developed by the U.S. Department of Education.
But this regulatory framework covers only the loan and grant programs established and funded by the federal government. Loans provided by states and private lenders such as banks, credit unions, and private individuals are governed by separate federal and state laws. Though federal loans and grant programs comprise the lion’s share of the student loan industry, it’s important to remember that these other players live in a separate legal world.
Lawyers who understand the Higher Education Act – and there aren’t that many of us, by the way – have a solid foundation in student loan law. This, however, makes someone a student loan lawyer much in the same way that your neighbor who’s read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban knows everything about Harry Potter.