9 FAQ About Legal Issues

Pro bono programs help underprivileged people who cannot afford legal services seek volunteer lawyers to handle their cases for free or at a significantly reduced cost. State or local bar associations usually provide these programs. Attorneys in many fields offer pro bono services too.

Who Can Get A Free Lawyer?

Individuals who are charged with a crime that might result in imprisonment and people who cannot pay an attorney can constitutionally get a free lawyer. Besides, those who are decided "indigent" by a court - having few assets and no funds to pay a lawyer - can get an appointed free lawyer.

One generally has no right to a free lawyer in non-criminal or "civil" cases. Fortunately, many community-based programs such as pro bono provide free legal services for people whose income is under 125% of the federal poverty level in civil cases. Besides, the elderly and disabled, domestic violence victims, and people enlisted in the military may be eligible for free legal help even with a little higher income.

What Do I Do If I Can't Get Free Legal Help?

If you are not eligible to get free legal services from a pro bono or legal aid program, you can turn to alternatives such as consulting a lawyer referral service for low-fee attorneys or seeking "unbundled" legal services to hire a lawyer for part of your legal work. You can also get legal information to solve the legal problem yourself.

What Do The Legal Services Corporation, The Legal Services/Legal Aid Program And The Public Defender Program Do?

The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is the single largest funder of civil legal aid in the US. It was founded to ensure that low-income Americans have equal access to justice by funding high-quality civil legal aid.

A Legal service/legal aid program only handles civil cases, not criminal. The Public Defender Program offers free representation to people who cannot pay an attorney for criminal cases.

When Should I Seek Legal Advice?

Generally speaking, you should seek legal advice when you cannot settle a dispute, and your money or property is at risk of loss. Some common situations when you should get legal advice include:

1. You are threatened or sued with a lawsuit

2. You have a disagreement on legal documents

3. You need a divorce and want the custody of your children

4. You are abused by a family member

5. You think you are treated unfairly by a government agency

What Cases Do The Legal Services Programs Handle & What If They Won't Help Me?

Each legal services program has its own priorities that determine which kinds of cases they can handle. Civil cases that most legal services programs can handle include family law, housing, consumer, public benefits, special education, unemployment compensation, tax problems, and others.

Due to limited resources and funding, legal services programs cannot handle every case for every person. If your case cannot be handled by legal services programs, you can turn to the Self Help Center for available resource materials. You can also contact the Legal HelpLink for a private lawyer.