LRAP Program Description

Beginning in 2006, the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) has made forgivable loans to attorneys employed by LSC-funded legal services programs (LSC grantees) to help them repay their law school debt.

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Overview

Since 2006, the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) has made forgivable loans to attorneys employed full-time by LSC-funded legal services programs (LSC grantees) to help them repay their law school debt. The Herbert S. Garten Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) helps LSC grantees recruit and retain qualified attorney staff. Attorneys selected for the program may receive forgivable loans for up to three (3) years depending on eligibility and available funding. For each annual term, the loan payment may be forgiven if the attorney remains eligible and employed during the entire annual cycle at the employing LSC grantee. This Program Description applies to all applications submitted for the annual cycle that commenced October 1, 2020.

Using a lottery system, LSC will select eligible attorneys (the actual number of loans made each year depends on available funding) to participate. Typically, application submissions from eligible attorneys far outweigh the loans to be provided. Eligible attorneys, accepted through a lottery, will receive an LRAP loan, which must be used to pay qualifying law school loans and accrued interest. If the selected attorney stays employed in good standing with the same LSC grantee through the required twelve months from October 1, 2020 to September 30, 2021, as certified by the executive director of the LSC grantee, then LSC will forgive the loan (presuming the participating attorney meets all other terms and conditions of the loan agreement). If the attorney stops working at that LSC grantee during the required 12 months, then the entire loan must be paid back to LSC, unless LSC determines the participating attorney had good cause as described below (See Section F).

An attorney’s participation in the first year of the LRAP is based on eligibility demonstrated in the initial application and selection. To participate for a second and third year, the attorney must submit information demonstrating continued employment with the same LSC grantee and other eligibility requirements. If eligible, an attorney may participate in the second and third year even if the attorney’s salary and/or net worth now exceed the LRAP’s initial eligibility requirements. All loans are contingent upon funds being available. There is no guarantee that an eligible attorney will receive funds for a second and third year. Attorneys are encouraged to apply in consecutive years. All selected attorneys must agree to participate in any evaluation of the LRAP. Evaluation activities may include the completion of surveys and participation in interviews.

Program Rules for Participating Attorneys
A. Eligibility Requirements

1.     Each applicant must submit a completed LRAP Application Form and all required supporting documents and certifications by the appointed deadline.

2.     At the time of initial application or renewal, the applicant must be employed full-time as a licensed attorney at an LSC grantee as that term is defined by the grantee.

3.     To receive loan forgiveness, the participating attorney must remain in full-time employment with the employing LSC grantee for the entirety of the LRAP loan term for which they are applying (for the current cycle, that would be October 1, 2020 through September 30, 2021).

4.     At the time of the participating attorney's initial application, the applicant must have a reasonable expectation of employment at the grantee for three years beginning with October 1 of the calendar year before the application. For example, a May 2021 applicant must have a reasonable expectation of employment at their current grantee from October 1, 2020, through September 30, 2023. Fellowship recipients or special-grant funded attorneys may apply for LRAP assistance provided they have a reasonable expectation of continued employment for the full three-year period, even if the fellowship or special-grant term lasts less than three years.

5.     At the time of initial application, the applicant cannot have been employed as an attorney by the employing LSC grantee for more than five years (60 months cumulative).

6.     At the time of initial application, the applicant must have a total outstanding debt of at least $75,000 in eligible law school loans, as described in Section B, below:

7.     At the time of initial application, an applicant's total annual income and net worth* may not exceed:

LSC Grantee’s Service Area Annual Income Net Worth
48 States, D.C., territories, and other service areas $62,500 $35,000
Alaska $78,125 $35,000
Hawaii $71,875 $35,000

*Income sources include but are not limited to the participating attorney's wages and salaries, interest, dividends, realized capital gains, gifts and trust income.  Net worth consists of the sum of the value of financial assets (e.g., cash, value of checking and savings accounts, stocks, bonds) and non-financial assets (e.g., equity in real estate) minus any debts (e.g., mortgage loans, student loans, consumer credit). Equity in the home in which the participating attorney lives is not included in the net worth calculation. 

8.     At the time of initial application, the applicant may not have:

  • previously received LRAP loans covering 36 months or more (cumulatively); or
  • defaulted on a previous LRAP loan; or
  • included a previously received LRAP loan in any bankruptcy filing as a dischargeable debt.

9.     An applicant is not required to first apply to, and maximize participation in, any other loan repayment assistance program for which the applicant is eligible. The receipt of other loan repayment assistance will not decrease the amount of the LRAP. However, LSC requests information on the applicant’s participation in other loan repayment assistance programs for research purposes aimed at further improving the LRAP.

10.  If selected through the lottery system, the applicant must execute an LRAP Promissory Note and timely submit the Executive Director Certification Form, as instructed through GrantEase, to receive a loan. A participating attorney will have to execute a new LRAP Promissory Note for each eligible year, up to three years.

11.  To have a LSC LRAP loan forgiven, the participating attorney must remain employed with the LSC grantee for the entirety of the annual loan term to which they have applied for participation (for the current cycle that would be October 1, 2020 through September 30, 2021). If the participating attorney does not remain employed full-time with the LSC grantee listed on the Promissory Note and application during the required 12 months, the participating attorney must repay all loan disbursements to LSC. 

12.  Prior to receiving each loan payment, a participating attorney must provide a Certification of Employment and Good Standing executed by the executive director of the LSC grantee where the participating attorney is employed full time.

LSC Grantee’s Service Area Annual Income Net Worth

B. Eligible and Ineligible Uses of Loan Principal

Eligible Uses

LRAP loans may be used for payment of the following educational loans incurred for law school expenses (“eligible law school loan(s)”), on the condition that they can be verified through a lending institution:

  • Federal Stafford Loans (Subsidized/Unsubsidized)
  • Supplemental Loans for Students (SLS)
  • Federal Perkins Loans
  • Law Access Loans (LAL)
  • Law Student Loans (LSL)
  • Law-school based loans
  • Other educational loans used to pay for law school (e.g., Nellie Mae, Sallie Mae, TERI)
  • Loans related to preparing for or taking bar exam(s)

Ineligible Uses

LRAP loans may not be used for payment of the following loans:    

  • Undergraduate or other non-law school related educational loans
  • Non-educational loans
  • Educational or non-educational loans from family members
  • Educational or non-educational commingled loans with spouses or partners or parents
  • Credit-card debt loans

Use of LRAP loans for payment of ineligible loans or any other purpose contrary to the terms of the LRAP Promissory Note, will automatically place the LRAP loan into default and the participating attorney will be required to repay to LSC the principal and interest pursuant to the terms of the Promissory Note.

C. Loan and Financial Information Required from Participating Attorneys

At the time of initial application, a participating attorney must have eligible law school loans, with a total outstanding debt on these eligible law school loans of at least $75,000, and must meet the other requirements of the LRAP (see Section A. above). All participating attorney will be required to provide lender documentation on each loan being submitted with the initial application. If law school debt has been consolidated with undergraduate and/or graduate school debt, the participating attorney will be asked to calculate the law school debt. The Application Form and Instructions describe these requirements in detail. A participating attorney also must certify compliance with the income and asset eligibility criteria.

A participating attorney must notify LSC at LRAP@lsc.gov in writing of any errors, omissions and/or significant changes in the application information and/or other information provided to LSC within 30 days of learning of such errors, omissions, and/or changes, including termination of employment for any reason from the LSC-funded legal services program that employed the participating attorney at the time of application. Failure to provide this information may affect the participating attorney's eligibility for the program and the participating attorney's Promissory Note repayment obligations for early departure from their LSC-funded legal services program.

Once a participating attorney is determined to be financially eligible for the program, any change in the participating attorney’s income or assets will not affect the participating attorney’s future eligibility for the program.

D. LRAP Loan Principal Distribution

The amount of the LRAP loan will be up to $5,600 annually for all participating attorney’s selected to participate in LSC’s LRAP. The LRAP loan principal will be distributed in two, six-month payments. LRAP loan principal distributions are provided to the participating attorney by mail to the participating attorney’s home address or other secure means in two disbursements of up to $4,000, each pursuant to the following schedule for the 2021 cycle:

  • Disbursement for employment during October 1, 2020 through March 31, 2021, will be made on or around September 1, 2021; and
  • Disbursement for employment during April 1, 2021 through September 30, 2021 will be made after November 1, 2021.

The first payment in the cycle, which will occur on or around September 1, 2021, will be disbursed only after LSC receives an executed Promissory Note and an executed executive director Certification of Employment and Good Standing form for the October 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021 time period. The executed Certification of Employment and Good Standing form indicates that the participating attorney remained employed full-time and in good standing for the entire period covered by the disbursement. The LSC grantee that employs the participating attorney is not involved in the LRAP loan relationship other than to verify the participating attorney's status on the Certification of Employment and Good Standing form

The second payment will be disbursed after LSC receives the executed executive director Certification of Employment and Good Standing form for the April 1, 2021 to September 30, 2021 time period. 

The participating attorney must apply the LSC LRAP loan on eligible outstanding law school loans, either through monthly payments or as a lump sum. Under no circumstances can participating attorneys use LSC LRAP loan funds for living expense or any debt other than eligible law school loans (see Section B. above). 

E. Loan Forgiveness

Interest on the LRAP loan will accrue at the rate of six percent per annum commencing with the execution of each LRAP loan.  The LRAP loan principal distribution, plus interest, will be forgiven if the participating attorney remains in good standing with the participating attorney's eligible LSC grantee throughout the LRAP loan term (for the current cycle that would be October 1, 2020 through September 30, 2021), as certified by the executive director of the LSC eligible LSC grantee. As discussed below, if the participating attorney does not remain employed full time and in good standing for the entire loan term, the participating attorney will be in default of the loan and must return the entire loan amount for the grant cycle (including the amount of the first disbursement if the default occurs after the first disbursement is made), unless LSC grants written default forgiveness. 

F. Loan Default

A default occurs when a participating attorney ends employment at the eligible LSC grantee organization during the grant cycle term (for the current 2021 cycle, that would be between October 1, 2020 and September 30, 2021). A participating attorney's loan will be in default on the entire amount of the annual loan (including any amounts already disbursed) if the participating attorney's employment with the eligible LSC grantee terminates between October 1, 2020 and September 30, 2021 for any of the following reason:

  • voluntarily resignation
  • voluntarily experiences a change in employment status (e.g., asks for and is granted a reduction from full- to part-time).
  • is terminated by the LSC grantee that employed the participating attorney.
  • reaches the end date of the fellowship program or special-grant funded employment and does not continue employment with the LSC grantee that employed the participating attorney.
  • uses or permits the use of any of the LSC LRAP funds to pay for any unapproved expenses (see Section B. above).

A default may occur at any time after the participating attorney is selected to participate in the LRAP Program.

Notice of Default: The participating attorney is responsible for informing LSC at LRAP@lsc.gov of any actual or anticipated default. Upon receiving notice from the employing LSC grantee or the participating attorney that a default has or will be occurring, LSC will investigate and obtain additional information about the circumstances surrounding the default. LSC will take action to collect on the loan under the terms of the Promissory Note if the participating attorney does not repay the entire loan, including all disbursements received, except for any amounts forgiven by LSC in writing as discussed below.

Petition for Forgiveness:

Process for Requesting Forgiveness of Loan Amount in event of a Default

  1. Authority to Forgive Loan Amount in event of Default: When a participating attorney is in default, LSC may, in its sole discretion, forgive the participating attorney’s outstanding loan balance by prorating the amount of the LRAP loan distribution due to the participating attorney, if good cause for the default is established under this Section (see below).
  2. Petition for Forgiveness: Within 30 days of a default (as measured from the actual date of the default), a participating attorney who wishes to seek forgiveness of the distribution must submit a written Petition for Forgiveness (Petition) to the LSC at LRAP@lsc.gov, explaining why good cause exists for the default. This Petition for Forgiveness must be in PDF format, attached to the email, and include the following:
    1. The participating attorney's contact information;
    2. The date of default and type of defaults (e.g., date of departure from LSC grantee, change in employment status at LSC grantee, etc.);
    3. A description of the circumstances that caused or contributed to the participating attorney’s default; and
    4. Which of the Good Cause for Purposes of Forgiveness listed in the "Good Cause for Purposes of Forgiveness" section below.
  3. LSC Review of the Petition: The LRAP Coordinator will review the participating attorney's Petition for Forgiveness and make a recommendation to the Director of the Office of Program Performance. The Director of the Office of Program Performance will determine whether good cause exists and whether, or to what extent, to forgive the loan.
  4. Notification of Determination: LSC will make a final decision on the participating attorney's Petition for Forgiveness within 30 business days of receipt. LSC will issue a Notice of Determination on the Petition for Forgiveness, either approving or denying the petition, via email. LSC’s decision is final and not appealable.

Good Cause for Purposes of Forgiveness

LSC, in its sole discretion, will determine whether “good cause” has been established, but will use the following guidelines when determining whether good cause exists:

The following circumstances, if supported by the appropriate documentation, constitute good cause:

  1. Death of the participating attorney (for which any reasonable notice from the PA’s employer or others is sufficient to meet the petition requirement above);
  2. Short- or long-term disability, or serious illness/injury of the participating attorney that results in voluntary resignation from or change in employment status with the LSC grantee that employs the participating attorney;
  3. Short- or long-term disability or serious illness/injury of a member of the participating attorney’s immediate family (i.e., spouse, domestic/civil partner, child, sibling, or parent; including both half-relations and step-relations) that results in voluntary resignation from employment or a reduction in employment status (e.g., from full-time to part-time) in order for the participating attorney to act as a caregiver for the family member with the disability, illness, or injury;
  4. Voluntary resignation from employment because a spouse or domestic/civil partner is involuntarily transferred out-of-state or the area (e.g., military transfer, plant relocation, etc.); or
  5. Voluntary resignation or involuntary layoff from employment because the participating attorney has received notice from the employing LSC grantee that, due to a loss of funding or other factor necessitating a reduction in staffing, there is an impending reduction-in-force, layoff, prolonged furlough, or material reduction in hours, pay, benefits, or employment status

The following circumstances will NOT constitute good cause:

  1. Termination for cause, as determined solely by the LSC grantee that employed the participating attorney;
  2. Voluntary resignation from employment in order to take another position (e.g., a private sector position, a Public Defender or District Attorney position, or any other public interest-sector position, including a position at another LSC grantee);
  3. Voluntary resignation from employment in order to voluntarily relocate to be closer to family, a spouse’s job, or otherwise; or
  4. Voluntary resignation from employment to care for an infant or child.
  5. Voluntary reduction in hours for any purpose other than those indicated in the preceding subsection.

Catch-All

  • As it is difficult to anticipate or enumerate each and every circumstance that would constitute “good cause;” other compelling circumstances that may arise will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis to determine whether good cause exists.
G. Submitting a LRAP Application/Renewal Application

The LRAP application process is an electronic process. Please visit LRAP’s How to Apply page for instructions on how to complete your application.

A completed application includes:

  • The electronic submittal of the Application form with all appropriate boxes checked (failure to check all appropriate boxes will result in ineligibility for the program); and
  • Loan documentation (documentation for each loan, plus any necessary explanatory material, combined into one PDF file and attached to the Application).
H. Submitting a Change of Address or Name Change

Participating attorneys must update their individual GrantEase grantee profile whenever there is a change to personal information, including name, address, phone number and email address, and the participating attorney must notify LRAP@lsc.gov within five (5) business day of make any changes.

I. Submitting a Change of Banking Information

Participating attorneys must email LRAP@lsc.gov as soon as there is a change to banking information. Do not provide any banking information in the email. LSC will respond to the notice of change to banking information with instructions on how to properly and securely provide LSC with new banking information. LSC uses direct deposit to make LRAP award payments. Failure to inform LSC of these changes will result in delayed award payments.

 

Tax Consequences of Receiving LRAP Assistance 

Participating attorneys are entirely responsible for any taxes or tax consequences of an LRAP loan, LRAP forgiveness, or an LRAP default. The LRAP is designed to take advantage of the provisions of 26 U.S.C. section 108(f) Income from the discharge of indebtedness of Internal Revenue Code, particularly section (f) Student Loans. In consultation with legal counsel, LSC believes it has structured the LRAP so that the loan amounts forgiven by LSC when a participating attorney completes each LRAP loan term are not considered taxable income to the participating attorney, and thus do not have to be reported as such. However, there is no authoritative legal guidance available to determine with certainty the proper tax treatment of these financial benefits. LSC does not give tax advice. Each participating attorney remains responsible for federal and state income tax consequences on individual returns.

Participating attorneys have the option to treat the forgiveness of their LRAP as taxable income and are encouraged to seek independent legal advice for any questions about their particular tax situations.

Need Help?

Should you have any questions or need assistance, please contact LSC at LRAP@lsc.gov.

For Further Reading

If you are employed by a U.S. federal, state, local, or tribal government or not-for-profit organization, you might be eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. 

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