The cost of hiring an attorney to represent you in a bankruptcy filing can be prohibitive if you are drowning in debt and have few liquid assets. Depending on your financial circumstances, you might be eligible for pro bono legal assistance at no cost from a variety of sources. Many law firms dedicate attorney time to aiding needy individuals. Additionally, law schools, attorney bar associations and legal aid societies provide free clinics and legal services to financially needy clients.
Research options for pro bono legal services in your area. Contact your state and county bar associations' lawyer referral networks. Many professional lawyer associations compile lists of attorneys who provide free legal services. You may also call the intake department of law firms in your city and ask for a referral for pro bono representation. Some law schools offer free student law clinics, which may be able to provide free legal services and guidance in your bankruptcy filings.
Read More: How to Find a Pro Bono Lawyer
Collect documentation demonstrating you meet income guidelines required for free legal services. Legal aid societies and student clinics generally restrict free services to applicants whose income is less than 125 percent of federal poverty levels. Additionally, most attorneys will not offer pro bono representation to potential clients who are otherwise able to pay. In order to verify your eligibility, these legal service providers will likely request copies of recent pay stubs, previous year's federal tax return and a copy of your credit report.
Schedule an initial consultation with potential legal representatives. During this first meeting you should be prepared to answer questions about the reasons you want to file for bankruptcy and what you hope to accomplish. This meeting helps the attorney determine whether he is willing to offer representation based on your qualifications and the circumstances of your case. You may need to schedule meetings with several pro bono service providers since different providers may have different eligibility requirements.
- Bankruptcy Strategies: How a Pro Bono Bankruptcy Attorney & Government Help Stop Foreclosure
- Montana Legal Services Association: Eligibility Guidelines
- United States Bankruptcy Court, Northern District of California: Bankruptcy Pro Bono Project
- D.C. Bar: Pro Bono Program - Bankruptcy Clinic
- University of Miami School of Law: Bankruptcy Assistance Clinic
Kevin Owen has been a professional writer since 2005. He served as an editor for the American Bar Association's "Administrative Law Review." Owen is an employment litigator in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area and practices before various state and federal trial and appellate courts. He earned his Juris Doctor from American University.