Can Free Legal Assistance be Effective?

G. Wiesen

The effectiveness of free legal assistance typically depends on the type of assistance sought by a person and how that assistance is going to be put to use. If someone, for example, is looking for assistance in deciding on whether to pursue a civil claim against another person, a free consultation can be an effective way to decide on how to move forward. Someone who is a defendant in a criminal case may also be provided with free legal assistance, and the effectiveness of such assistance often depends on the particular attorney assigned to the case and the nature of the case itself.

Free legal advice can include initial consultations with lawyers.
Free legal advice can include initial consultations with lawyers.

Free legal assistance typically refers to any kind of legal work provided by an attorney without charge or financial compensation. This type of work is often referred to as pro bono. The type of free legal assistance a lawyer provides typically depends on his or her specialization, the law firm he or she is a part of, and the requirements of state or federal licensing groups that encourage pro bono work from lawyers.

Some organizations offer free legal advice via telephone.
Some organizations offer free legal advice via telephone.

Most of this free legal assistance consists of meeting with clients and helping them file reports or proceed with legal paperwork at no charge. In the US, there are federal and state recommendations for the amount of pro bono work a lawyer should provide each year, and in the UK this type of work is additionally promoted through an annual Pro Bono Week. This type of free legal assistance can be quite effective, as lawyers who may otherwise charge large fees for hourly work will instead provide their time without compensation.

There are also some lawyers who may provide free legal assistance in the form of unpaid consultations with potential clients. This will not necessarily involve any type of legal filing or formal representation, but instead provides individuals with a chance to present their issue to a lawyer for legal advice. Such advice can be quite effective, since it is in the best interest of a lawyer to assist a client in moving forward with a case that may be successful, or to advise against further action in a case that would not be profitable for either the lawyer or the client.

Free legal assistance that is provided by a country or state to a defendant in a criminal case can also be fairly effective. This depends a great deal on the nature of a case and the individual lawyer assigned to the case. Paid representation is often seen as preferable, since paid lawyers may have a greater motive to help their client and build their reputation, but there is also the possibility of a paid lawyer merely taking a case for the money. In the end, the assistance provided depends mostly on the lawyer involved and what type of case is being handled by that lawyer.

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