If you are facing criminal charges or a civil lawsuit, the gravity of the possible legal consequences can feel overwhelming. You may also be facing a situation where you feel like you need protection or some type of legal help and have no idea who to turn to or even where to start.
If you live in Florida, then there are a number of legal referral services that were created to help point residents in the right direction when looking for an attorney. Here is a short guide to the various attorney referral services that Florida has to offer.
Does the Florida Bar Association Have a Referral Program?
As most people know, the organization that oversees the legal profession is known as a bar association. Each state has its own, and they regulate many aspects of the legal profession like testing procedures to become an attorney, ethical issues and complaints, continued learning for bar members, and others.
The Florida Bar Association also has an attorney referral service. This is a free service that allows the general public to submit questions about a possible legal issue they are facing either through their contact form on their website or by calling their office.
A Florida bar employee will take your information and give you a list of attorneys who might meet your needs. You can then contact one to set up a consultation. Some attorneys have free first consultations, but those that don’t will not charge more than $25 per the association’s guidelines. The referral service is free, but that does not mean that the legal services will be. After accepting a case, each attorney will work out a fee schedule with their client.
Does Florida Have Any Legal Aid Programs?
Legal aid provides counsel and advocacy for persons living close to or below the poverty level. These services are far less centralized than the Florida Bar Association’s referral service, with most legal aid offices run by a county association rather than a state one.
Legal aid provides civil support only, as criminal cases are handled by public defenders. Some associations provide limited legal services such as estate and probate, divorce/family law, and social security appeals.
Most legal aid programs require an application, including proof of income to make sure that you qualify for their services and a visit to their office. For those who are not sure if they qualify or have a hard time getting around, there is a new online-based program called Florida Free Legal Answers that can be a good place to start. They are supported by the American Bar Association, and If they cannot help you, they might be able to point you to someone who can.
Are there Pro Bono Attorneys in Florida?
Pro bono, which means “for free” in Latin, is the term used when an attorney represents a client without charging their normal rate. Most legal aid programs offer their services for free if the client qualifies based on income. One of the best places to start looking for a pro bono attorney outside of legal aid organizations is by contacting the local bar association based in your county.
Many of these associations keep a list of attorneys who are available for pro bono services, and can match you with an attorney who specializes in your legal issue. Many states do not require practicing attorneys to perform pro bono services, but the Florida Bar Association requires all attorneys to perform at least 20 hours each calendar year.
This is the Bar Association’s way to give back to the public and provide services to individuals that could not afford them otherwise. Unlike legal aid programs, pro bono attorneys are not restricted by practice.
What If I’m Looking for a Particular Type of Attorney?
Sometimes, you know what kind of lawyer you need, but need help narrowing your search to be sure the attorney you seek out is both in your area and handles the kind of legal issues that you are facing.
The internet and search engines can do both, but knowing who to trust can be less easy to figure out. The Florida Bar Association’s website provides a list of definitions for the various types of law that firms and attorneys specialize in, from administrative law to zoning and land use. But how do you know which lawyer is best for your case?
LegalMatch is built exactly for these situations. Their website allows you to narrow your attorney search by state and locality, as well as by practice area. From there they can introduce you to a wide range of highly rated and recommended attorneys close to you, and you can decide which one is best for you (unlike referral services). LegalMatch’s service is free and simple.
All you have to do is post your case to the website and wait for attorneys to respond to you. You can then pick the lawyer you feel most comfortable with and begin working on your case. When it comes to dealing with legal issues, the right fit is key.