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 Can I Get Free Legal Help?

It can feel overwhelming to be faced with an issue that requires legal representation. Aside from the actual problem itself, there is also the hassle of finding the right attorney to take your case and having enough money to secure their services. 

Although some legal issues can be resolved without the help of an attorney, this will not be true for every case. Sometimes, a person may need legal assistance to understand complex laws or to make sure that they are complying with the proper requirements. 

In situations where an individual may be confident in handling most of their legal concerns, but has a question or two about a specific court form or needs a step in the filing process clarified, they may be able to obtain free legal advice from a number of places. They can visit free legal websites or can contact free legal hotlines located in their state. They can also reach out to local legal aid societies.

Other resources that you may be able to obtain free legal advice from include a public library, court websites, state or local bar association websites, and legal clinics affiliated with law schools in your state. 

It should be noted, however, that some of these sources may not be able to answer all of your questions. The reason for this is due to special ethical and professional rules that lawyers and those providing legal advice have to follow. In fact, most of them cannot provide actual legal advice. They can only offer free legal information (e.g., where to find a particular court form, etc.).

Thus, if an individual needs actual legal advice or representation and they cannot afford to pay for a lawyer, they may be eligible to get a lawyer for free. Whether a person qualifies to receive free legal assistance will be contingent on specific guidelines enacted by the state in which they reside. 

Finally, the quickest way to determine whether you can get a lawyer for free is to either visit a state’s website and review the list of qualifications, or to contact a local legal aid society.  

Is Free Legal Help Available in Criminal Cases?

A person who is facing criminal charges has a right to an attorney. If that person cannot afford to hire an attorney, then the government will be required to assign and pay for one on their behalf. So long as a person qualifies for free legal representation, the government cannot refuse to pay for their lawyer because it would violate that person’s constitutional rights.

In criminal cases, those who cannot afford a lawyer will be appointed a free legal representative by the court. These representatives are usually selected from the local public defender’s office. The main purpose of appointing a public defender is to ensure that people who cannot pay for legal assistance in a criminal case will still receive fair representation in court. 

Also, while an individual may not be able to choose a specific public defender to represent them, their services will still be free of charge.

What is Legal Aid and What are Law Clinics?

As previously mentioned, individuals who require legal representation may be able to get free legal advice and/or hire a lawyer for free by contacting their local legal aid office. Legal aid offices provide free legal assistance to those in need. In general, these offices are typically funded by the federal government or by individual state governments, and will have lawyers on staff that are strictly employed to provide representation to people with low incomes. 

Some examples of the types of cases that legal aid societies handle include landlord-tenant issues, consumer credit problems, evictions, and various employment matters. However, this is not an exhaustive list of services that a legal aid society may handle. Thus, a person who needs immediate legal help should perform an online search for the closest legal aid society, or if they know where one is located, should visit them in person. 

Another option that was also discussed above are legal clinics that are affiliated with local law schools. A legal clinic is a service that allows current law students to gain experience by working on real-life cases under the supervision of a faculty advisor (e.g., usually a law school professor who is also a lawyer). Many legal clinics are tailored to focus on specific areas of the law, such as social justice issues, small business problems, and family law matters.

Though this may depend on the policies of an individual law school, the majority of law school clinics are meant to provide general legal services to the public and thus often offer legal assistance free of charge to their clients. 

One final note about law school clinics is that individuals who need help should not be deterred by the fact that a law student is doing their work. Not only is a lawyer supervising that law student, but law students must go through a rigorous application process and have to be chosen to work for a clinic. They also volunteer to apply to such clinics. It is not a graduation requirement. They are there because they want to help their clients.

Is There Free Legal Help for Social Justice Claims?

In general, social justice claims are usually brought under the idea that every person deserves equal political, social, and economical opportunities. Oftentimes, these claims touch upon issues that involve sexual harassment in the workplace, domestic violence, freedom of speech or religion, discrimination in housing or employment, and healthcare or medical treatment. 

Since these claims are meant to have an impact on more than just a single person, an individual may be able to find a law firm or other organization that has an interest in a particular social justice issue to represent them pro bono. A case taken on a pro bono basis is generally worked on either for free or with a reduced fee.

Two significant legal organizations that frequently handle these types of claims include the American Civil Liberties Union (“ACLU”) and the American Center for Law and Justice (“ACLJ”). Individuals looking to file a social justice claim should also reach out to private organizations that share a similar interest with their case or they should contact their state or local bar association for more information on attorneys who may take their case.

Additionally, individuals can also try contacting legal organizations that specialize in particular social justice issues. For instance, persons who need representation for issues affecting the LGBTQ community may want to speak to the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund (“Lambda Legal”). 

Another example of an organization that handles specific legal issues is the Natural Resources Defense Council (“NRDC”). Thus, those who wish to file claims for issues affecting the environment should potentially reach out to the NRDC first. 

What about Free Legal Help If I’ve Been Injured?

In the event that someone needs free legal representation for a personal injury lawsuit, then they may be able to negotiate a deal with a lawyer to help them on a “contingency” fee basis. However, this does not mean that the lawyer’s services are entirely free. Instead, a lawyer who works on a contingency fee basis will only get paid if they win their client’s case. The lawyer will take their pay cut from a portion of the damages award that the client receives. 

On the other hand, if a lawyer has agreed to take a case on a contingency fee basis and they do not prevail, they will be paid nothing for their services. 

In order to find a local government lawyer that may take a case on a contingency fee basis, a person should start by visiting the website for their state or local bar association. While each lawyer may have different conditions for this fee arrangement, a person should be sure to discuss all of the terms of the agreement before they hire them. 

Lastly, though a person may be responsible for minor costs like filing fees or expert witness fees, the outcome may be worth the smaller expenses. Not only is the lawyer working on the case for free, but it also gives the lawyer extra incentive to win the case or else they will not get paid. 

Therefore, you should not shy away from asking a lawyer to take a personal injury case on a contingency fee basis because the outcome of that case matters as much to you as it does to them.

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