The American Bar Association estimates that new lawyers have an average debt of more than $100,000. Unfortunately, this debt load may discourage attorneys from accepting employment at a non-profit or government organization, which traditionally pays less than private practice.
Public Student Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) allows attorneys and paralegals working for a government organization, a tax-exempt organization, or other non-profit such as a civil legal aid program like East River Legal Services to seek loan forgiveness. PSLF requires that borrowers work for a qualifying agency while they make 120 payments on their federal student loans. After 120 qualifying payments, borrowers can apply to receive forgiveness of the remaining balance of their federal loans.
The PSLF program had several hitches at the beginning. Borrowers reported issues with loan servicing, confusion about what constituted a “qualifying payment,” and concerns that forgiven debt would have serious income tax liabilities. Thankfully, many of these issues have been corrected in recent years and PSLF applicants report greater success in receiving forgiveness. A temporary and expanded PSLF forgiveness review has given relief to thousands of borrowers. Borrowers eligible for PSLF are encouraged to apply for review of their loans under the current PSLF guidelines. More information about student loan forgiveness can be found on the DOE website: https://studentaid.gov/manage-loans/forgiveness-cancellation
The purpose of PSLF is to encourage professionals with student loan debt to consider work that supports their communities. PSLF lessens the impact of student loan debt when making a career choice, which is meant to enrich the staff of public service employers and ensure that quality professional services are available for vulnerable members of our communities.
East River Legal Services (ERLS) is an LSC-funded civil legal services program in Eastern South Dakota. ERLS advocates represent low-income residents of Eastern South Dakota, focusing on representing and advising clients in domestic violence and housing. ERLS provides legal information, advice, and direct representation to clients who would otherwise be unable to afford legal counsel. ERLS encourages staff to participate in loan forgiveness.
ERLS is currently hiring for the position of staff attorney. If you are an attorney who would like to work for ERLS, we can assure you that we are a PSLF qualifying employer, and we will assist with an employer certification when requested. Additionally, if you are an out of state attorney wondering whether licensing would be a barrier to working in South Dakota, ERLS can assist you with the process to waive into the South Dakota Bar. SD Bar Waiver