Does Your Student Loan Lawyer Have White Knowledge?

Does Your Student Loan Lawyer Have White Knowledge?

By |March 26th, 2014|


If you’re in over your head with student loans and are looking for help, you probably want the lawyer who knows the most.

Someone who’s been practicing law for awhile would be a good idea. Definitely someone who’s got experience working through tough student loan issues.

But student loan law is a relatively new name for the field, with lawyers cropping up over the past few years to tackle the issues confronting those who have been beaten down by the educational finance system.

Many of have come up through the ranks of consumer bankruptcy, debt collection harassment, and lawsuit defense work. They’ve worked for years to hone their craft, and have brought those skills to the table of student loan resolution.

They’ve got white knowledge. And it makes the difference between a competent student loan lawyer and one who can really knock it out of the park by finding every possible option for you.

What Is White Knowledge?

I first heard the term white knowledge in the book Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. In it, he mentions the term as being, “like white noise, only more useful.” And the more I thought of it, the more I realized that it’s the thing that we’re all looking for when we hire someone to help us out with a problem.

When I take my car into a mechanic, I want him or her to be able to stick a hand into the engine compartment and instinctively know where to find a particular hose or wire.

My dentist should be able to look in my mouth, see I haven’t been in a dental chair for awhile, and instinctively reach for the dental scaler.

An accountant should be able to punch numbers into a calculator without looking down at it.

That’s white knowledge. It’s information acquired without effort, as if by osmosis and sheer exposure to a field.

It’s a level of understanding borne of constant practice, and it’s where your lawyer adds value to the process.

You can’t teach it, at least not in the classroom. It’s assimilated into the brain, the heart and the bloodstream.

What Does A Lawyer Look Like With White Knowledge?

When your lawyer:

  • understands the ways in which bankruptcy works in the real world (even if you can’t wipe out your student loan debts)
  • can quote sections of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and Fair Credit Reporting Act by heart
  • can reach into his or her hard drive for a variety of samples of discovery requests for student loan lawsuit defense cases
  • can flip through a Pooling and Servicing Agreement and instinctively understand the roles of the parties to a student loan securitization scheme

That’s all white knowledge.

White Knowledge Sees Solutions Without Blinders

The lack of this exceptional (and unteachable) skill is why so many bankruptcy lawyers hear about student loan debt and say, “nope, can’t help you.”

And why many collection defense lawyers shake their heads and tell you there’s no defense to a student loan case.

They know one field of law to the exclusion of all others. If your problem doesn’t fit neatly into their preconceived notions of what can and cannot be done then you’re shown the door.

For some fields of law, that’s fine – but not when it comes to student loan lawyers. We’re operating at the crossroads of a number of different legal and regulatory systems, providing solutions that didn’t exist even a few years ago.

It’s a minefield of complexities, and a lack of white knowledge could mean the difference between relief and continued frustration.

If you’re looking for a student loan lawyer, you’re going to need to take some time to get the right one. But if you look closely, you’ll be able to spot the one who’s got white knowledge.

And when you do, stop looking for help. Because if there’s a solution out there, that lawyer will be able to find it for you.

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About the Author:

I've been a consumer protection lawyer since 1995, working to help people end their bill problems. I'm a faculty member at the Student Loan Law Workshop, a nationally recognized speaker, and a long-time member of both the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys and National Association of Consumer Advocates.