Free Legal Services
For those who need legal help but cannot afford it, legal services are available. Each state has legal aid organizations, and clients are not required to pay for these services. Legal aid organizations exist to help low income individuals or families.
These legal aid organizations help clients protect their legal rights. Some attorneys working for these agencies donate their time pro bono or for the public good. Clients can receive help with housing, family law, discrimination at work, bankruptcy, social security, disability, immigration and even criminal defense.
Other attorneys who assist clients through legal aid agencies are paid for by government entities such as the state. On occasion, if legal aid attorneys are handing the maximum number of cases they can handle, other attorneys are standing by to take the overload. These attorneys will also be paid through the government for their legal services.
Clients can locate free legal aid by performing an internet search for free legal aid in their state, call the telephone numbers provided, speak with a legal assistant, and explain their issue. At this point, the legal assistant takes down all of the client's information and passes it on to an attorney. Sometimes, legal assistants will send out papers for the client to complete and return.
The attorney or a committee of attorneys at the legal aid clinic will evaluate the client's case and make a decision on whether the client has a case. Once a client has been accepted, the attorney will schedule meetings with the client to obtain all the necessary information and build a case to present to the court.
If someone is arrested on a criminal charge and cannot afford to hire a defense attorney, the court will assign the accused a public defender. Public defenders work for the county, city or state and are paid by the corresponding government office. The accused will need to complete documents proving that they are unable to pay for their representation. Each county, city or state has their own income guidelines.
People may need free legal services for any number of reasons. For example, if an individual needs to file bankruptcy but does not have the thousands of dollars it takes to pay the attorney and the court filing fee. This is where legal aid can step in.
If a person is being discriminated against while working, applying for a job, or while trying to rent an apartment, legal aid can help. People may be discriminated against for age, race, gender or disability. It is a violation of federal law to discriminate based on these issues. Severe penalties exist for those who discriminate or attempt to discriminate against those protected by the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission).
Depending on the type of case, an attorney may take a case based on what is called a contingency fee. This means that the client pays nothing unless the client wins a settlement. Examples of cases where this would apply include social security, disability, worker's compensation, medical malpractice, automobile accident injuries or other personal injury cases.
When attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, those clients who do not have the money to pay an attorney can still get the legal assistance they need. If the client loses the case, the client pays the attorney nothing or pays for minimal attorney expenses. If the client wins the case and is awarded a settlement, the attorney takes a percentage of the settlement. This way, the attorney gets paid for his services and the client is reimbursed for their medical bills, pain, suffering and other losses.