Pro bono lawyers offer free or reduced-cost legal representation for a range of civil and criminal litigation matters, such as housing, bankruptcy, divorce, domestic violence, child custody, immigration and unemployment cases. Pro bono legal assistance is available to those who cannot afford an attorney.
National and State Bar Associations
Lawyers have a professional duty to provide free legal services to those unable to pay. In fact, the American Bar Association recommends that every lawyer aspires to deliver at least 50 hours of pro bono legal services per year.
To find a pro bono lawyer in your county, visit the American Bar Association's pro bono directory map and click on your state. This will pull up a list of local pro bono services, including case types and counties served. Your state's bar association will also maintain a list of pro bono lawyers. You can usually find this information online.
Contact a Nonprofit Organization
Nonprofit organizations, such as LawHelp.org, match people living on low incomes who need legal help. They can put you in contact with local legal aid programs and lawyers who are willing to donate their time to clients who cannot afford to pay. Law Help maintains an interactive map that you can click on by state to pull up a list of local legal aid programs.
If you don't qualify for legal aid, the organization can put you in touch with private lawyers who might be able to help you for a significantly discounted fee.
Contact Local Law Schools
Many law schools require students to render pro bono services as a condition of graduation. Clinics are typically open to the community and are staffed by law students under the supervision of law professors. Visit the American Bar Association's Law School Directory for a list of participating schools or simply call your local law school to see whether it has a pro bono clinic that can help with your particular legal issue.
Speak to Local Attorneys
If you can't find a local pro bono lawyer in one of the national directories, try running an internet search for pro bono attorneys in your county or contact your local bar association. Many law firms provide pro bono work as part of their corporate social responsibility programs. They'll typically display their practice areas on their websites and provide phone numbers to call for more information.
The U. S. Department of Justice and the American Immigration Lawyers Association both maintain lists of pro bono lawyers who specialize in immigration cases – find local service providers by visiting their websites. Veterans who've been denied Veterans Affairs benefits can get free pro bono legal assistance by visiting the Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program website.
You can find a pro bono lawyer through the American Bar Association or your local bar association, or online through organizations that connect people with pro bono legal volunteers. You can also speak directly to local attorneys and law schools.
Jayne Thompson earned an LL.B. in Law and Business Administration from the University of Birmingham and an LL.M. in International Law from the University of East London. She practiced in various “Big Law” firms before launching a career as a commercial writer. Her work has appeared on numerous legal blogs including Quittance, Upcounsel and Medical Negligence Experts.