There are times in life when you’ll find yourself needing the assistance of a lawyer. Divorce is a common situation that can benefit from an attorney, but you may also need help if you were in a serious accident, if you’re getting ready to start a business, or you’re ready to plan your estate.
Unfortunately, many people avoid getting the help they need because they can’t afford to work with a licensed attorney. Even if you don’t have the money upfront, there are still ways you can work with a professional.
Schedule a Free Consultation
Most lawyers offer free consultations, regardless of the type of legal services they provide. You can learn a lot during that free consultation.
You’ll want to ask a variety of questions about your case. In some instances, you may learn enough about your case to proceed on your own. For example, if you’re looking to collect money from someone who owes you, after talking to an attorney, you may get enough advice to proceed to small claims court with confidence.
Make sure you discuss your financial situation during that consultation as well. In some cases, lawyers are also willing to offer pro bono representation. If they aren’t willing or able to provide their services for free, they may be able to point you in the direction of another association or attorney who may be able to help.
Request a Contingency Fee Arrangement
Just because you can’t pay your attorney now doesn’t mean you might not be able to pay them later. Some attorneys are willing to provide you with their advice and services upfront with the expectation that they will obtain between 30 and 40 percent of the money that is awarded in your case.
Examples of cases where attorneys are most likely to offer the ability to pay contingency fees include:
- Personal injury
- Auto accident
- Product liability
- Medical malpractice
- Bicycle accidents
- Dog bites
You have a higher chance of working with an attorney without paying them upfront if your case has the potential to result in a hefty payout, and if the case is relatively straightforward so they can recover money in your case quickly.
Contact the Courthouse
If you aren’t having any luck working with a lawyer directly because they will require you to pay upfront, you do have other options. One is to contact the courthouse directly.
The court is required to provide you with representation in certain situations. You probably know that you will be appointed with an attorney in serious criminal matters, but the court may also be willing to provide you with legal representation in the case of a child dependency case.
In addition, some courts are willing to provide you with free assistance in the case of a divorce. Someone can help you fill out paperwork and file it properly so there’s no need for the involvement of an attorney. However, this does require an uncontested divorce so filling out the paperwork is relatively straightforward.
Look for a Legal Aid Society Near You
There are many legal aid societies throughout the United States that offer free legal services to those who can’t afford an attorney. However, these nonprofit societies focus on low income individuals, so you may not be able to obtain their help unless you meet certain income requirements.
Even if they are unable to help you due to your income or legal situation, they may be able to provide you with advice on other organizations or attorneys who may be able to help you for free or at a reduced rate.
Hire a Law Student
Don’t overlook your local law school! Many law schools have pro bono programs that enable you to get legal advice from a student who is currently studying. Not only might they be able to provide you with insight so you can represent yourself, you’re helping them at the same time by giving them the chance to practice what they’re learning by working with an actual client.
Because they are not properly licensed, you can’t pay them for their services and they can’t formally represent you in court, but their advice and guidance can be invaluable.
It’s true that working with an attorney can be expensive, but that doesn’t mean you’re completely on your own if you can’t afford their fees. With the tips on this list, you can get at least a little legal assistance, even if you don’t have the money to pay them upfront.