How do I Choose the Best Pro Bono Criminal Lawyer?

Erin J. Hill

When it is time to choose the best pro bono criminal lawyer for your case, the options you have available may be limited. If you cannot afford an attorney, many areas will assign you one free of charge. You may also be able to check with local law firms to find out if any local attorneys in your area offer pro bono services. There may also be community programs or organizations that offer free lawyer services to those who qualify, but these places oftentimes do not handle criminal cases.

If the cost of an attorney is too steep, ask around to see if any in your community will work pro-bono.
If the cost of an attorney is too steep, ask around to see if any in your community will work pro-bono.

Your first option when choosing a pro bono criminal lawyer is to speak with the attorney assigned to you by the court, if applicable. These attorneys usually specialize in criminal cases, but they are often overworked with less pay than private attorneys. If you do not like your assigned lawyer, you may be able to request someone else, but whether or not another attorney is assigned could be at the discretion of the judge, or it may be based on whether or not another public defense attorney agrees to take over.

You may also be able to find a pro bono criminal lawyer by calling around to various law firms in your area. Sometimes they have a certain number of pro bono cases offered per year, and other times individual lawyers will offer their services as an act of public service. This is not always available, and the chances of your finding a lawyer this way will depend on many factors. For instance, an attorney may choose to take your case if he or she believes a win is imminent and would look good on his or her resume. You may also find an attorney who feels the need to take your case based on personal reasons, such as sympathy for your situation.

There are organizations which may provide a pro bono criminal lawyer, but these are few and far between in many areas. Most nonprofit organizations specialize in domestic or civil cases, but you may find one willing to take yours if you call and set up an appointment. You may have to fill out an application and wait to be contacted, and the waiting list for these services is often very long. If your case will be going to trial quickly, this may not be a good option for you.

If you are not able to find a pro bono criminal lawyer using any of these methods, you may be able to find someone willing to lower their rates or offer payment plans. Payment installments can be given over time, but this may not be an option if you are found guilty of a crime and sent to prison. You may also try asking friends or family members for help with payments, if available.

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