Home / Membership / Volunteer Opportunities / Student Loan Bankruptcy Assistance Project

Student Loan BankruptcyStudent Loan Bankruptcy Assistance Project

Unmanageable student debt is a growing social problem in the commonwealth. For many low-income borrowers, student debt prevents them from taking care of themselves and their families. The Bankruptcy Code provides for the discharge of student debt — but only upon a showing of “undue hardship” on the student borrower and her dependents. 

Recognizing that the student borrowers most likely to be eligible for an “undue hardship” discharge in bankruptcy will not have the resources to hire a trial lawyer, the Massachusetts Bar Association, in partnership with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office and the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce’s Student Debt Working Group, has established a panel of pro bono attorneys and law firms willing to represent student borrowers in adversary proceedings seeking to discharge student debt in their bankruptcy cases.

If you are interested in helping student loan borrowers seeking to discharge student debt in bankruptcy, please email studentloan@massbar.org.

Volunteer FAQs

Why should I consider joining the MBA’s Student Loan Discharge Litigation Panel?

The lawyers who join the Student Loan Discharge Litigation Panel are litigators and bankruptcy attorneys who will be providing legal assistance to people facing enormous economic hardship and lack of resources necessary to navigate the bankruptcy process. These lawyers will also be providing an important service to the courts by reducing the number of pro se cases on the dockets. Student loan discharge cases also provide an excellent opportunity for attorneys to gain litigation and trial experience.  

Do I have to be an expert in bankruptcy?
Absolutely not! The volunteer lawyers on the Litigation Panel will not be responsible for commencing Chapter 7 cases on behalf of student borrowers. Instead, volunteer lawyers will focus exclusively on representing student borrowers in adversary proceedings seeking to discharge student debt. The central issue in such adversary proceeding is the student borrower’s present and future ability to repay their student loans and the outcome of the litigation typically turns on the medical and vocational evidence proffered by the parties. Litigating under undue hardship does not require extensive knowledge of bankruptcy law and procedure, and non-bankruptcy lawyers are encouraged to volunteer on the Litigation Panel.

What sort of assistance can I expect from the MBA if I volunteer?
The MBA will provide training and mentoring for the volunteer lawyers willing to represent student borrowers on a pro bono basis. Volunteer lawyers will also receive a comprehensive training manual for representing debtors in student loan hardship discharge cases developed by the National Consumer Law Center. Finally, during the course of any undue discharge proceeding, volunteer lawyers can consult with the seasoned bankruptcy lawyers who are administering the MBA’s Student Loan Bankruptcy Assistance Project. 

What’s the commitment if I volunteer?
Participation on the Student Loan Bankruptcy Litigation Panel will not obligate attorneys to accept a pro bono matter. Rather, panelists agree to attend a training seminar and to be contacted when a matter arises and to consider providing representation.

How can I learn more?
If you want to refer a case to the MBA’s Student Loan Bankruptcy Assistance Project or learn more about volunteering on the Student Loan Bankruptcy Litigation Panel, please contact program co-chairs Francis C. Morrissey and Michael J. Fencer at studentloan@massbar.org.