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What options do I have if I don’t have the money for a lawyer?

October 2, 2017

Sometimes no matter how badly you need a lawyer, you simply can’t afford one. The good news is that there are alternative options. The not-so-good news is that they can be difficult to come by.

Often, the point of hiring a lawyer is to avoid having to pay money to someone like an ex-spouse or another type of adversary. However, it will first cost you money to avoid having to pay even more money. While a lawyer can help you protect your money and other assets, what happens if you can’t afford the lawyer to begin with?

Read on to learn about your options if you need a lawyer but are having trouble affording one.

Criminal vs. Civil Cases

In a criminal case, the court will provide you with a lawyer if you’re unable to afford one. In civil cases, though, you may be on your own – the court won’t necessarily appoint you a lawyer if you’re not able to afford one yourself.

Contact a Legal Aid Society

These nonprofits can be found throughout the country. They offer legal services to people who fall beneath a certain income threshold. Some people have trouble getting help from a legal aid society because they make too much money, but if you have a low income, it’s worth reaching out to them. Note that even if you have a low income, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee a legal aid society will be able to help you. Contact your nearest one to find out about all of their guidelines.

Contact a Law School

By getting in touch with a law school, you may be able to contact a reliable law student who can offer you some free legal advice. You may even find one to represent you, because law students are usually certified to practice under a member of the faculty, so long as the faculty member is a practicing attorney. Some law schools work primarily with people who earn low income, while others may be willing to take your case no matter what your income level is.

Get in Touch With the Bar Association

By contacting the bar association in your state or county, you can find out if there are any lawyers or firms who are looking for pro bono work. If you can’t get legal services for free, the bar association may at least be able to tell you which firms or lawyers are offering their services at reduced rates.

Negotiate With an Attorney

You may be surprised at how willing an attorney is to work with you when it comes to their rate. You could learn that the fee isn’t nearly as high as you expected and that you can afford it after all. You may find an attorney who is willing to give you a discount if you simply ask for one. You may also be able to get the fee capped so that you know you won’t be charged extra fees once the case is over. Some attorneys will also work out a contingency agreement with you, which means they’ll get paid if your case is won, but if you lose your case, you won’t owe the attorney anything.

The best possible scenario is to hire a lawyer, but if you’re simply unable to, it is helpful to know that you have a few other options to explore.

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