If you are facing a legal issue, it is in your best interests to seek help from an attorney. Having an attorney on your side not only gives you an advantage in your case, it also gives you peace of mind. The right attorney can help you sort through the circumstances surrounding the issue, give you advice on the best way to move forward, and help you to achieve the best possible outcome — even if it means going to court.  

If you’re not sure how you’re going to afford an attorney, you may feel uneasy scheduling a consultation with someone. You may even run around in circles, searching all over the internet for advice instead of talking to a professional. Thankfully, you don’t have to worry — there are options for you to seek legal help, even if you’re in a financial bind.

Is Free Legal Help Available in Criminal Cases?

If you are facing criminal charges, you have a right to an attorney. If you cannot afford to hire your own lawyer, you have a constitutional right to have an attorney at the government’s expense. If you choose, you can have an attorney appointed for you by the court, often from the public defender’s office.  

The public defender’s main job is to make sure that people who cannot afford legal help in criminal cases are represented fairly in court. You may not be able to choose the specific person you work with, but their services are free to you.

What is Legal Aid and What are Law Clinics?

If you can’t afford an attorney, you might qualify for legal aid (sometimes called legal services). Legal aid offices are often government-funded (either from the federal or state governments), and have lawyers on staff to help represent people with low incomes in a variety of legal situations. Some types of cases handled by legal aid lawyers include issues like eviction defense and other landlord-tenant issues, denial of unemployment compensation, and consumer credit problems.

If you think you might qualify, you can find your local legal aid office either by searching online or looking in the telephone directory. You can also ask a lawyer referral service for the legal aid office’s contact information. Because of certain cutbacks in federal funding, you may find that legal aid is only available to handle a few types of legal issues, or that there is a waiting period for services. However, if you are able to wait, legal aid services are often free of charge.

Another avenue to consider is a local legal “clinic.” Many law schools provide law clinics where law students work on real-life cases under the supervision of a faculty adviser.  Some legal clinics may focus on particular areas of law — such as elder law or social justice issues — so that students get focused experience that they otherwise would not receive in the classroom.  The clinics are intended to be both a learning experience for the students as well as a service to the public, and often the services are provided free of charge to the client.

Is there Free Legal Help for Social Justice Claims?

If you are facing circumstances that have a bigger impact beyond your individual situation, you may be able to find an attorney or an organization with an interest in that issue to represent you on a “pro bono” (for no fee or a reduced fee) basis

 Often, claims that involve sexual harassment (especially in the workplace), spousal abuse, discrimination in housing or employment, freedom of speech or religion, environmental issues, or access to medical treatment will spark interest in a wider context, making it more likely that someone will be willing to work the case to draw attention to that bigger picture.

You can try contacting your local bar association or private organizations that deal with your specific issue. Depending on what specific issue you face and the circumstances of your case, organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Center for Law and Justice, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, or the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund may be willing to help you.

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

If you’ve been hurt in an accident and want to pursue a lawsuit against the party that injured you, a lawyer may agree to help you on a “contingency” basis. While the lawyer’s services are not completely “free” in this scenario, contingency arrangements are set up so that the lawyer is paid a certain percentage of the final award if and when you win the case. If for whatever reason you do not prevail, the lawyer gets paid nothing.

If you do find a lawyer willing to take your case on a contingency basis, keep in mind that you may have to pay certain costs, such as filing fees or expert witness fees, even before the end of your case. If this happens, sometimes the court may order the losing side to pay your costs.

LegalMatch cannot obtain free legal help for you, nor does our online matching service match you with pro bono lawyers. However, there are resources available to you if you find yourself dealing with financial difficulties.  

If you are seeking an attorney, and still need help finding free legal services, you can try the American Bar Association’s “Find a Lawyer” page here (there’s a link for “Free Legal Help”), or try LawHelp at www.lawhelp.org.