The prohibitive costs of legal action are an enduring problem that prevents those that have experienced a civil wrong from seeking compensation. After all, even those accused of a crime have the benefit of public defenders. Luckily, in most areas, there are pro bono lawyers available for those can demonstrate sufficient need. The type of pro bono legal aid will vary depending on the legal matter, but will either defer or eliminate the conventional costs of legal action entirely. Pro bono lawyers, in addition to contingency arrangements for litigation cases allow for any individual to fight for compensation within the legal system or fulfill several other essential functions of civil law.
Find a pro bono lawyer
Unlike other lawyers, you are unlikely to find a pro bono lawyer advertising, as these services are evaluated on a case-by-case basis and generally provided as a community service. Legal aid societies exist to help vulnerable classes of people that would not be able to afford legal action by facilitating their interests through the legal system with the use of pro bono lawyers. Most pro bono arrangements will be initiated through these legal aid societies.
Legal aid societies exist in every state and you will be able to research contact these societies of pro bono lawyers through state and local bar associations. These associations may sponsor legal aid societies of their own where members can fulfill pro bono obligations to the community.
Contingency arrangements vs. pro bono work
For good reason, typical lawyers will be unwilling to do pro bono work for litigation. This is because litigation billing arrangements work on contingency, with the lawyer collecting a fee only if the case is won. The contingency fee will be a percentage of the jury award that will cover the cost of legal services rendered. Typically, the client bears the cost of no attorney fees, but will still be paying court fees if they lose the litigation action.
Since a contingency arrangement poses little financial risk for the client, pro bono lawyers will not pursue litigation to trial. They may however evaluate a potential case on its merits and steer the potential client to a law firm that will pursue the litigation claim on contingency.
Barriers to legal recourse
To cut down on frivolous litigation filings, many states have adopted tort reform laws that shorten the statute of limitations to file a case or force the losers of litigation to pay the legal costs of the other party. These barriers, which are intended to prevent burdening the civil courts, may also dissuade low-income clients from filling suit, in case they are forced to pay the legal fees of the defendant. Pro-bono lawyers play an essential role in allowing these individuals to file suit by minimizing the financial risk to these clients while ensuring that their claim has a reasonable chance of succeeding in court.
Typical Pro bono arrangements
Withheld benefits litigation is a common source of pro bono lawyer arrangements. These individuals have been denied a rightful claim of compensation as promised to them via contract or other legally binding agreement. These benefits, such as worker’s compensation or disability insurance are necessary for the client’s survival, making expensive litigation impossible. Even a contingency arrangement would take a considerable portion of those benefits. Suing employers and other entities is one of the more common functions of pro bono lawyers.
Pro bono family lawyers will deal with issues such as divorce, child support and adoption for individuals that could not afford these services or have been the victims of violence. This is a usually a vulnerable class of individuals that need protection by the legal system but find the costs of hiring an attorney prohibitive. These pro bono lawyer efforts are typically coupled with counseling and health evaluations and the clients are given a fresh start are getting redress in the legal system.
Pro bono bankruptcy lawyers help individuals and businesses facing bankruptcy navigate federal bankruptcy court through advising on bankruptcy law and preparing of the necessary documents. While bankruptcy does not involve lengthy court procedures, pro bono lawyers help to navigate the law itself and help those facing personal bankruptcy find a fresh start.
Class action lawsuits may feature the services of pro bono lawyers if the firm deems that the class of persons seeking redress has been substantially wronged and seeking individual redress would not maximize their potential compensatory damages. Through a collective effort, pro bono lawyers filing a class action lawsuit on behalf of a vulnerable class help these individuals navigate the legal system.
Evaluating a pro bono lawyer
You probably will not have the luxury of being picky with a pro bono lawyer, but that does not mean that you will have to accept substandard legal representation. As is the case with all lawyers, you pro bono lawyer should be honest and objective. Whatever claims you may make may sound perfectly reasonable to you, but an established legal professional that is objective will note possible contradictions and other issues with your case that may bar successful litigation.
Questions to ask the pro bono lawyer
The following questions are important when interviewing your attorney:
What will happen if the other party refuses the settlement offer?
Will I be represented by the pro bono lawyer in court?
Who will I contact if there is a problem or if I have a question about the lawsuit?
Have you worked with clients that have had situations similar to mine?
What is this states contributory negligence law, if applicable?
Will this law apply to me?
Can you allow me to examine your credentials?
Do you have alternatives to contingency billing?
If you cannot handle my case, can you refer me to a pro bono legal service?
Those who do not have a lot of money can look for pro bono lawyers to help them with legal matters. A pro bono lawyer can help with just about any type of case in which a client cannot pay. Those who do not have a lot of money can look into their legal aid society to get pro bono lawyers if they need legal help.
Those who may be facing legal action are entitled to help. A pro bono lawyer is one who will be able to take on a case without charging the client. In some cases, the pro bono lawyers are paid by the state. A free lawyer can be had by anyone who cannot afford a lawyer and is embroiled in a legal situation. In high profile cases, a pro bono lawyer will want to work for publicity. A free lawyer can usually be found through a state agency that will provide free lawyers to those who need legal help of one kind or another.