Student Loan Assistance for Legal Aid Attorneys

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

UPDATE | By Richard L. "Dick" Tate, Texas Access to Justice Foundation Chair

In Texas – where everything is bigger and better – we don’t like to be last in any ranking. But a recent nationwide report listed Texas 50th in the number of attorneys serving people in poverty.[1]  

We know that low salaries of legal aid lawyers coupled with skyrocketing student loan debt make it difficult or impossible for lawyers to accept employment at legal aid or stay in those jobs long term. That’s why the Texas Access to Justice Commission created the Texas Student Loan Repayment Assistance Program (Texas SLRAP) in 2003 to assist attorneys who choose to pursue careers in legal aid in Texas. 

The Texas SLRAP is funded by the State Bar of Texas and administered by the Texas Access to Justice Foundation (TAJF). Each year approximately 125 lawyers across the state take advantage of this program. These lawyers have an average student loan debt of $89,000 and yearly salaries of less than $50,000.

“SLRAP has not just helped me along; it has made my career possible,” said Linley Boone-Almaguer. “When I first started out over a decade ago the salaries were very low and my debt was very high. Without SLRAP it would have been nearly impossible to make ends meet, and making my loan payment each month would have been a distraction from my work.” 

Boone-Almaguer joined Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) following graduation from the University of Texas School of Law and has built a career there working on homelessness prevention and landlord-tenant issues. She currently serves as branch manager of TRLA’s Edinburg office.

In Texas, we currently estimate one legal aid lawyer is available for approximately every 11,000 Texans who qualify for legal aid. To be eligible for legal aid, an individual must earn no more than $14,713 a year. For a family of four, the household income cannot exceed $30,313. 

The Texas SLRAP is a critical part of increasing access to justice for low-income Texas families. Click here for details on program guidelines.

[1] The Justice Index, a project of the National Center for Access to Justice