Benchmark Institute is a training and performance development organization dedicated to increasing the quality and quantity of legal services to low-income communities.
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Living Well on…Peanuts
How to live on a legal services salary, with or without student loans, and still see a movie and go out to eat once a month. Information on loan repayment assistance programs, debt management and budgeting on a shoestring and more.



Repayment Options

Tax Deductions & Credits

Smart Money Moves

Repayment Options

Law school debt for our baby lawyers is bone-crunching.

Equal Justice Works does a fine job of describing ways to reduce or extend the debt including:

Civil Legal Assistance Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program
Fulltime (at least 30 hrs/wk) licensed attorneys with federal loans who are working in nonprofit organizations providing free civil legal assistance to low-income clients or are with a protection & advocacy or client assistance program may qualify.  First come first served with anticipated application deadline of August 16, 2010.  

College Cost Reduction and Access Act
This legislation places a ceiling on payments for borrowers with high educational loan obligations and enables them to make affordable payments for 10 years while working in public service.  After ten years, the government will forgive the remaining obligation. 

It applies to borrowers working in public service jobs including legal aid and any 501(c)(3) organization.  Signed into law in 2007, the final regulations should be available in November 2008.

Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAPs)

You can get a list of law schools that offer LRAPs using the search function on the E-Guide to Public Service at America's Law Schools.


Consolidation Loans

Federal Consolidation Loans allow you to pay off multiple loans winding up with one monthly payment. There are three options with these loans which allow you to make lower payments over a longer time period, make monthly payments tied to your income, or make gradually increasing payments. 


Tax Deductions & Credits

Deduct Student Loan Interest

Taxpayers may deduct up to $2500 per year of student loan interest. There are limits based on your filing status and adjusted gross income.  Check it out on the IRS website.


Lifetime Learning Credit

Taxpayers can reduce federal income tax dollar for dollar up to $2,000 — 20% of the first $10,000 of the qualified tuition and related expenses.  For particulars, go to the IRS.

Public Interest Attorney Loan Repayment Program – California

AB 935 would create an endowment that could provide up to $15,000 per year for a maximum of five years for selected public interest attorneys practicing law in California.

Introduced by Assembly Member Hertzberg, Feb 23, 2001, the bill passed but is not funded.

Full text of the bill


Smart Money Moves

Keys to financial flexibility in banking, credit and insurance

from the Princeton Review.