Legal Aid on a Budget: How to Pay for a Lawyer with No Money

If you want to get a divorce or adopt a child, you’ll have to navigate the complex maze of your local legal system. Filing these actions is no small matter and it’s wise to find the best lawyer you can to do it right. You’ll need their help understanding the appropriate laws and procedures to help you complete the process.

Attorneys, however, don’t provide these services for free. Read this helpful guide on how to pay for a lawyer with no money. You may be able to get the help you need, even if you are tight on funds.

Decide if You Need an Attorney

Fees for legal counsel will certainly be expensive. You may find that you can avoid these costs if you know your case doesn’t need any attorney assistance in the first place. Court self-help centers are a great first stop to find this out.

Self-help centers are free, drop-in offices sponsored at a local courthouse. They have information on necessary court forms, fees and appropriate laws and statutes that apply to your state. Self-help centers can’t provide legal advice on your case, but they can give you the tools you’ll need to file your case and enter the system.

You may not need an attorney if your case is uncomplicated or there’s no one opposing you. If you have time to organize your own case and file your own papers, you may be able to skip this attorney expense. Just be willing to understand the laws and procedures that apply to your case, and you can probably avoid these costs.

There are some specific examples of legal actions where you may not need an attorney. Unchallenged stepparent adoptions are actions you can complete yourself. Attorneys are not allowed in small claims hearings so you have to represent yourself.

When You Need an Attorney

You will need an attorney if know your case is complex and will eventually go to a jury trial. Lawyers can give you legal advice and help you navigate the system to be sure you receive a decision in your favor. Examples of some the legal cases that need an attorney include:

  • Auto accidents
  • Construction defects
  • Employment discrimination
  • Medical malpractice
  • Real estate fraud

Defendants in criminal cases also need lawyer representation. The US constitution, however, guarantees that a lawyer will be appointed to help them. These lawyers will be appointed free of charge if defendants can’t afford one.

You can read more about how lawyers can help protect clients in these cases. Attorneys can help protect you from insurance fraud or unfair outcomes.

How to Pay for a Lawyer with No Money

Read further on the resources available that can show you how to get a lawyer with no money.

Local Attorney Bar Associations

Local attorney bar associations often provide free legal assistance through what’s called a pro bono program. “Pro bono” means “free” in Latin. These attorneys help persons who qualify for free legal advice.

Pro bono services may offer their assistance at a reduced price. Sometimes they may eliminate their legal fees altogether. Local bar associations sometimes have referral services that includes a free initial meeting with another lawyer.

You can find out more about pro bono services by checking your closest bar association or visiting the American Bar Association to find a program near you.

Federal Legal Aid Programs

Legal aid programs use federal grants to hire paralegals or lawyers to provide free services to clients. You can find a local legal aid office near you either online or in the phone book.

Federal aid programs can help with cases ranging from tenant/landlord disputes to divorce matters. Clients must meet federal poverty income levels to receive these services.

Local Law Schools

Some law schools offer free legal clinics to clients who can’t afford to pay. These clinics give their law students experience in working with clients and answering questions. These students are supervised by experienced lawyers or law professors.

Ask About a Payment Plan with an Attorney

If you do need legal help, you may be able to find lawyers that take payments made in installments. Payment plans may be an effective way to control cash flow and have funds available when you need them. It’s up to the attorney themselves if they want to make this option available to you.

When you first meet with an attorney, ask them if they’d be willing to accept a payment plan. You can provide a copy of your financial statements to show that you can pay off fees monthly instead of upfront.

Some lawyers may ask for a fraction of their full fee up front before they work on your case. They would then let you make monthly payments to pay off the rest.

Ask About Contingency Fees

Ask if you can pay what’s called a contingency fee for legal services. A “contingency” fee means that lawyers get paid if you win your case. Personal injury lawyers will often work on contingency fees.

If you hire a lawyer on a contingency fee, that means they can collect 30-40 percent of your final award. Be sure you understand if the attorney expects you to cover any upfront expenses before agreeing to a contingency fee. Some of these costs might include expensive filing fees.

Next Steps

Want to know more about how to pay for a lawyer with no money? Contact your local bar association and ask them if they offer pro bono services. They may also be able to refer you to any federal legal aid agencies in your area.

If you do decide to hire an attorney, ask them if they would accept a payment plan. You can also ask them if there are any tasks you can do yourself to lower the expense. These tasks might include copying or filing papers at the courthouse.

Don’t forget to check out our blog for more helpful advice on more reasons why you would need an attorney. Lawyers will work hard for you to get you the best outcome possible.

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