Pro bono programs assist low-income individuals in locating volunteer lawyers who are willing to provide free legal advice or, in rare cases, to handle a whole case for no charge. Some of these programs also provide a free legal hotline you can contact to get a rapid legal opinion from an attorney.
These programs are generally staffed by highly experienced attorneys who have their practices but volunteer a portion of their time to help the less fortunate. State or local bar associations usually sponsor them. Visit the attorney search page or contact your local bar association to learn about pro bono opportunities in your region.
There is no entitlement to a free lawyer in most non-criminal (or "civil") cases. However, numerous legal aid and pro bono groups offer free legal assistance to the impoverished in these circumstances.
These programs primarily assist those with very low income (less than 125 percent of the federal poverty threshold), although they may also assist those with slightly higher income levels. These organizations also assist the elderly, disabled, victims of domestic violence, enlisted in the military, or other unusual circumstances where obtaining legal representation would be difficult.
Because these are community-based initiatives, they typically have limited finances and resources to serve everyone, even if everyone is equally eligible based on the poverty level. Many of these programs will only take on cases that they consider are extremely deserving and likely to triumph to make the greatest use of their limited resources. Unfortunately, this often means they have to turn away many people who want assistance.
Legal aid offices (also known as legal services offices) employ a team of attorneys, paralegals, and other support employees whose only purpose is to provide legal assistance to the poor and disadvantaged. Because of the types of situations that these attorneys deal with daily, they are frequently experts in the issues.
Some of these initiatives are supported by the federal government. In contrast, others are funded by state or municipal governments, yet others are privately funded (often by large law firms or local bar associations). Please select a state from the attorney search page to look for legal aid or other programs in your area.
Visit our blog section to learn more about pro bono lawyers and how they help.