Legal services are incredibly expensive, even for the most mundane of legal matters (uncontested divorce). Some folks simply can’t afford it. Depending on the matter, lawyers may charge a flat rate fee or have another fee scale to determine how much you pay for what they’re doing. Lawyers that win lawsuits for other people typically get paid out of the settlement or award, but criminal lawyers have to recover their fees in other ways. What lawyers charge you depends on their fee structure. If you can’t afford a lawyer, how do you get one to work for you?
- Legal Aid Organizations
Almost every city has a free legal aid organization that is at least qualified to give out legal advice. If you need a divorce but don’t have the money to hire a lawyer, legal aid would be one of the first places to call. Remember that Legal Aid societies only provide simple help for civil matters. In criminal matters, the court has to supply you with a lawyer.
- Law Schools
Some law schools operate law clinics (overseen by law professors). Law students form the staff, and you can get a lot of good advice from the professors. Generally you need to be low income in order to qualify for services from a law clinic, and they don’t generally provide full-time representation, but if you just want to talk to a lawyer and get an assessment, law clinics are a great way to do it. If you live near a law school, just call to inquire if they have something like this.
- Pro Bono Services
Many lawyers who have successful practices and who are unusually driven to do good for the public will do a certain number of “pro bono” cases. In human terms, that means they work for you for free. Some lawyers will do a free legal assessment and then if they believe in your case strongly enough, they’ll take your case on for free.
- Free Assessments In General
Many practices don’t charge a fee for a consultation or assessment. And they don’t take a dime from you until they win money for you or accomplish your goals. If you have your eye on a legal service, you might find someone like Foyle Legal that simply offers a free consultation up front with no obligation to hire them.
- Online Legal Information
Places like Nolo have terrific online legal libraries and information that can give you a sort of informal assessment of your legal situation. It’s in no way a replacement for the advice and assessment of a real lawyer, but it’s a fantastic starting point to become familiar with your legal issues and determine if you want to move forward to talking to a lawyer.
- Online Legal Questions Answered
The Internet is a terrific resource for people just hoping to touch base with a lawyer and ask a simple question. Many services will answer simple questions for absolutely free and let you know the credentials of the lawyers who freelance for them. It’s a basic question/answer format that lets you ask a question with no obligation and for free. The lawyer can give you an idea of what they think about your legal situation.
- Family Help
If you’re lucky enough to have a lawyer in the family, they might be more than willing to assess your situation and let you know what they think, although hiring a family member as a lawyer is generally not a good idea. For a quick assessment, though, asking a basic legal question about your situation is completely free if the answer is coming from someone like a sibling or parent.
It can be hard to determine when you need to hire a lawyer, but you’ll generally find your answers as you proceed with your situation. The Internet is an invaluable resource for people looking for free legal aid, and so many people don’t have the income it takes to hire a lawyer. Whatever your situation is, if you need free legal help, you’re going to find it online most easily.