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Free lawyer services can be found in many areas and may include public defender offices, legal aid societies, and even private attorneys. The types of free lawyer services available depend on the jurisdiction as well as the legal situation or problem that a potential client needs addressed. While getting a free lawyer is not always easy, in some cases the law requires that the client be provided with free legal service.
When dealing with common legal situations, such as divorce, bankruptcy, or consumer law, many low-income clients can find free lawyer services through their local legal aid society. Legal aid societies offer pro bono legal advice to those who qualify. Each legal aid society sets its own criteria for determining who qualifies for free lawyer services and often restricts its scope of practice. Individuals who need legal advice in areas not addressed by the legal aid society may be provided with basic information for handling their case on their own or referred to other lawyers who may be able to take the case for free or at a reduced rate.
Another option for getting free lawyer services is to find a private attorney who is willing to take the case at no charge. Some lawyers will do this as a matter of principle or because they think that the case could help advance their career. Some bar associations offer referral services that can help connect potential clients with such lawyers. Some lawyers are willing to work on a contingency basis in civil cases if they believe they can win a substantial settlement or judgment. These lawyers provide their services for free and take a percentage of the amount they won in the case.
Cases that involve domestic violence, child custody issues, or human rights violations are often of particular interest to advocacy groups. Individuals who were confronted with these situations should contact national and local advocacy groups to see if they are willing to provide free lawyer services. Even if the advocacy group is unable to provide a free lawyer, it may be able to offer suggestions, including the names of experienced attorneys or other sources of financial help.
In many places, those charged with a crime are entitled to free lawyer services. The accused need to inform law enforcement or the courts that they are unable to afford a lawyer. At that time, arrangements will be made to provide the defendant with legal counsel. In large metropolitan areas, the taxpayers support a public defender's office, while in other areas judges may simply appoint private attorneys to represent indigent clients.