Legal services are something not everyone anticipates needing but it's helpful to learn more about how they work. Some of the most expensive things in life are buying a home, emergency medical care, and seeking legal advice or services. The good news is that most states have various forms of free legal services. You can look at the government, law firms, private lawyers, or even law schools for free legal aid. The types of legal services depend on the area.
The type of legal advice you need depends on your particular circumstances. Take public defenders, for instance. If you are officially charged with a crime and you have no resources to hire a lawyer of your own, then you will be assigned a public defender. That is where a judge will appoint you an attorney that works in the public defender's office. This attorney will be with your case for the initial trial and if you lose, they will be there on your first appeal as well. This is because, under the United States Constitution, everyone has the right to free legal services during a criminal trial.
If you are not involved in a criminal trial but are looking for free legal aid to file a lawsuit to protect your interests, you could try a legal aid clinic or legal services. If you are impoverished or less wealthy, these lawyers are paid by the government to help you for free. Due to the number of cases and time though, they can only take on so many clients. These legal services usually handle unemployment benefits, consumer credit issues, social security benefits, and various landlord-tenant lawsuits. Although personal injury attorneys are not pro bono lawyers, they do work on a contingency fee basis. This means, if you don’t get paid, they don’t get paid.
Another type of free legal aid is from pro bono lawyers. Law firms, whether big or small, usually has a set number of hours put aside for pro bono cases. These types of cases can vary but like most programs, they look for clients who are 125% under the federal poverty line. Exceptions can be made but these exceptions depend on the firm or lawyer. One example of a lawyer making an exception and taking on a pro bono case is during a social justice issue. These are cases that have implications that expand beyond the case. They are easy cases to spot and a few examples would be, freedom of speech, sexual misconduct in the workplace, or racial discrimination. There are pro bono lawyers that will take the case because of the broader effect on the community.
Another place that people often overlook for free legal aid is law school legal clinics. Law students offer free legal services to low-income clients under the supervision of their clinical professor. There are multiple fields that these pro bono lawyers can offer such as, various landlord-tenant lawsuits, health care law, financial assistance, elder law, or family law. Law students can also give varied legal advice too. Some examples of things the law students can help with are, negotiation, court preparation, client interviews, research and writing, and drafting legal documents.