There likely have been times you’ve wanted to ask an attorney for help but have been intimidated by the potential cost. Whether you have been hurt in an accident, need help writing a will, have been accused of a crime, or are wondering about any other legal issue, an attorney can make all the difference.
The first thing to know is that an attorney may not cost as much as you think. For example, if you have a workers’ compensation claim, attorneys are legally prohibited from charging you a fee in advance. Instead, a judge awards any legal fees only if you receive a workers’ compensation award. So, do your research, because you may be able to hire an attorney even with no money.
Beyond that, even if your bank account is tight, you can still get the legal help you need. Here are a few tips for getting legal help when you can’t afford an attorney.
Option 1: Use legal aid
If you have a civil legal problem (as opposed to a criminal legal problem), Legal Services of New Jersey offers free assistance to low-income residents.
“Legal Services in New Jersey embraces the vision of full access to essential civil legal aid for all economically disadvantaged people who cannot secure a lawyer on their own,” the organization says on its website.
You have several options through LSNJ, including a statewide hotline, legal information online, and representation, all of which are free if you meet income requirements.
Option 2: Get pro bono help
Many attorneys donate their legal expertise to worthy causes. In fact, the American Bar Association encourages its members to donate 50 hours a year to pro bono work.
“The term pro bono is used primarily in the legal profession,” according to Investopedia. “Lawyers who serve the public interest by providing free legal services to those in need do so on a pro bono basis. The provider is thought to be imparting a benefit for the greater good, instead of working for profit.”
The ABA offers a free online directory where you can search for a local volunteer attorney.
Option 3: Request a free consultation
Many law firms, including King, Kitrick, Jackson, McWeeney & Wells LLC, offer a free consultation for some practice areas. This gives you the chance to go over the details of your situation with an attorney to see if you have a case and to find out how much it may cost.
An attorney will be happy to share fee details with you although may not know up front how much your case will cost, depending on how complicated it is. You may also be able to pay for your attorney after being awarded a settlement, so it’s worth asking before assuming you can’t afford to move forward.
Option 4: Ask for a court-appointed attorney
If you are defending yourself in criminal court, you have the legal right to an attorney if you cannot afford to pay for one.
“Under the protections of the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, criminal defendants are generally entitled to legal counsel if they cannot afford a lawyer of their own. That is, the court will appoint an attorney who will represent the criminal defendant without charge,” according to Lawyers.com.
When you appear before a judge, you can request an attorney and should be prepared to share information about your finances.
If you need legal help, you can request a free consultation from Kitrick, McWeeney & Wells by contacting us.