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Finding Legal Help When You Can’t Afford a Lawyer

Quite often, the people who need an lawyer are those who don’t have the funds for one. It doesn’t matter why you need one or whether you’re the defendant or the accuser - you almost always need a lawyer. But how do you find legal help if you can’t afford a lawyer?
If you face a criminal charge but lack the means to properly defend yourself, then the court will appoint you an attorney. For example, if you face a DUI charge but can't afford an attorney, you have the option to use a public defender. Unfortunately, the court doesn’t offer help to anyone who simply needs legal advice or finds themselves in a civil case.

If you can’t afford a lawyer, you might be able to find legal assistance at the following places.

Law Schools

This is ideal if you just want advice on how to go about your legal situation. Student practice rules vary depending on which state you live in—most law school clinics will represent low-income individuals. Call first to see if a law school near you can help.

“Generally, students in law school clinics are certified to practice law under a faculty member who is a practicing attorney,” says Martha Mannix, director of clinical programs at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

These clinics are the law school version of clinicals for nurses. Therefore, as they learn and take on cases, students can help and give advice to those “typically denied access to justice.”

Legal Aid Societies

Many nonprofit organizations work to provide free legal services to those who lack financial stability. It is important to stay persistent and attempt to receive help from different societies. Federal grants fund a network of these legal offices that aim to provide resources for low-income individuals.

Many offices and programs don’t normally help with criminal charges. However, they can help you navigate other cases - such as those involving divorce or landlord-tenant issues. Look at LawHelp.org. They connect low-income individuals with legal resources.

County or State Bar Associations Pro Bono Programs

There are lawyers’ bar associations at both state and local levels, and many will provide low-cost or no-cost legal resources. If you want a pro bono attorney, consider looking into bar associations - they’ll have attorneys who have decided to dedicate some of their time to pro bono work.

You can also represent yourself - although it’s difficult to recommend this approach in good conscience. To be sure, this is something you can do. But you’ll want a trustworthy lawyer on your side when it comes to bigger cases and charges.

Funding and Grants For Women and Families: