How To Hire A Lawyer With No Money
If you were injured in a car accident, if you are fight for custody of your children, or if you have been accused of a crime, you will probably need an attorney. Attorneys can be expensive. If you don’t have money, does this mean that you can’t get an attorney?
No. There are provisions to help people who have no money to get the legal representation they deserve.
Attorneys Appointed by the Courts
You can probably recite the Miranda Warning verbatim. A prominent feature of that warning is, “You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided to you.”
The court provides attorneys in situations where you have the constitutional right to legal representation. These are not minor or frivolous disputes. They are situations where the stakes are high, including, but not limited to, criminal prosecution.
Gideon v. Wainright
There was a legal case called Gideon v. Wainright where a poor person could not afford a lawyer. The state’s attorney legally overpowered him. He lost the case and was sentenced. However, the verdict was appealed.
The Supreme Court decided that a poor defendant in a criminal case must have legal representation in order for the trial to be fair. In this case, the conviction was overturned permanently, enshrining the right to counsel in the law.
Upon arrest, law enforcement has to tell you that you have the right to counsel. The public defender will be with you from your first hearing onward.
Public defenders sometimes have a bad reputation. People think they are not competent or are so overworked that they don’t care about the people they represent.
In most cases, nothing could be farther from the truth. Public defenders are tireless civil servants who are forced to work within budget restraints. They help people with no money defend themselves in court instead of seeking lucrative careers in the private sector.
If you feel that your public defender is not adequately handling your case, the court may appoint a different attorney. Everyone, including those who have no money, has the right to be represented by good counsel.
Child Dependency Cases
Few things are as heart-wrenching for a parent as losing access to their children. Custody battles are frightening and overwhelming for all involved. Fighting for custody without legal representation is an unwinnable battle.
In some states, the courts extend the legal right to counsel to civil cases involving child custody. The court appointed attorney is typically a state employee from the public defender’s office.
However, if your jurisdiction does not have this option and you don’t have money for a lawyer, there are affordable and sometimes free options available.
You can contact the legal aid office closest to you. As a non-for profit agency, they can help people who don’t have the finances for expensive lawyers.
You can also get pro bono support. This involves a lawyer volunteering to take your case free.
Pro Bono Attorney
Because of the severe ramifications of child dependency cases, do your due diligence before selecting a pro bono attorney. Learn about the pro bono program's income requirements. Also, learn about the attorney who will represent you.
A common saying is, "Beggars can’t be choosers." It’s true that if you cannot afford to pay for an attorney, your options are limited. However, this does not mean that you cannot be selective in the pro bono program you attempt to qualify for.
You should feel comfortable with your attorney. Don’t let the pro bono nature of the services force you to compromise your strategies or ideas just to get something for free.
You want a family law attorney if possible. Many pro bono attorneys come from the corporate world. While they are eager to help you, they may lack the family law experience necessary to have a successful outcome in court.
Pro Se Representation
In child custody cases, you could go about pro se representation. This is where you represent yourself. However, if the other party has an attorney, you are setting yourself up for failure.
It is always better to have a lawyer as opposed to going at it alone. In child custody cases, emotions are involved that could negatively affect your ability to adequately defend your position. Lawyers are trained negotiators who often resolve child custody cases before they go to court.
Do your research by familiarizing yourself with how the family law courts in your area work before working with a pro bono attorney. Be cooperative since pro bono resources are limited. Cooperative clients often receive better pro bono services than those who are unduly demanding or uncooperative.
When you are injured in an accident, your life changes instantly. You are dealing with loss of property, recovery, lost wages, medical bills, and more. Insurance companies rarely play nice with accident victims.
It is possible to get legal counsel without paying money up front. They call this a contingency fee arrangement. Your lawyer is paid if they can recover money for you.
The contingency fee arrangement varies from law office to law office. Generally, you pay nothing out of pocket until the case concludes favorably for you. If the attorney doesn’t win the case, they walk away empty-handed.
Contingency fee cases incentivize the lawyers to win and give poor people access to motivated legal representation. Attorneys will only take these types of cases if they think they can win, if they feel they can win a large settlement, and if they think they can conclude the case quickly.
Personal injury cases, ranging from car accidents to medical malpractice to product liability, are typically handled on a contingency basis. However, administrative hearings, contract disputes, bankruptcies, and criminal cases are typically not handled on a for contingency basis.
Law School Clinic
At times, you just need legal advice. You may get that for free from a law school. Law schools may even refer you to a lawyer who can represent you at a low cost or for free.
Law schools have clinics that give students hour credits for helping others with their legal problems. Some do this over the phone or by videoconference, whereas others will meet face-to-face. While they don’t litigate on your behalf, student lawyers can show you precedents and help you solve legal issues.
In some law schools, the help offered is general. Others focus on niche aspects of the law to help their students hone their skills.
Most law firms offer free consultations. During the consultation, you can discuss your legal records and case. The lawyers will determine whether or not your case has merit.
This initial consultation may be all that is needed to resolve your case. Or it can at least help you to know where to go next. You can get good legal advice without needing to pay an hourly charge.
Certain lawyers work for charities and may represent specific populations. There are lawyers who offer their expertise to help artists, musicians, veterans, and people from certain social economic backgrounds.
Charities can connect you to lawyers who work inexpensively or for free. Most legal charities offer free consultations that can help you see the merit of your case. From there, you may be put in contact with adequate legal representation.
You can reach out to your local Bar Association. Each Bar Association is unique in how they treat low income clients. However, if you can be the proverbial squeaky wheel, you may find out about current projects that support free or reduced cost legal counsel.
Legal aid societies give low-income people access to lawyers. These nonprofit organizations are scattered across the country. The only drawback is that your income needs to be exceptionally low for you to qualify for the help offered by legal aid societies.
How to Hire a Lawyer with No Money
If you have been injured, you are facing criminal charges, or you are fighting for child custody, you need someone on your side who is familiar with the legal system. Just because you don’t have money doesn’t mean you don’t deserve good legal counsel.
Start by knowing your options. Look at legal associations, charities, pro bono lawyers, and other programs offered by the local, state, and federal government. Law schools are an excellent resource as well. If you choose to defend yourself, you can still learn about your rights through free consultations from lawyers.
Finding an excellent lawyer when you have no money requires time and energy. But don’t be afraid to look around. When you find the right lawyer, all the energy spent will be worth it.