No matter how old you are, what your gender is, or how affluent you are, you may need a lawyer at some point during your lifetime. If you have little to no money to use towards hiring an attorney, you may be wondering how to get help paying for a lawyer. Maybe you just want to pay for a lawyer with no money. Limited finances does not mean that you are just out of luck. For example, if you are charged with a misdemeanor or felony that could result in jail time, you are entitled to representation.
If you demonstrate financial hardship, then the court will assign appointed counsel — a public defender — to represent you. The Miranda Rights officers read to you when they arrest you are no joke; they were created (from a case called Miranda v. Arizona) to protect your constitutional rights. The Miranda Rights state: “You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.”
How to Get a Lawyer with No Money
Even if you were not arrested and do not need a lawyer to help you avoid jail time, there are many other examples of when you may need a lawyer in your life. If you are having financial difficulties, you may need a lawyer with problems related to bankruptcy. If you have had a chronic disability or a recent medical issue — especially one that occurred at your workplace, you may need a lawyer for help on issues relating to the Americans with Disabilities Act or disability compensation in the workplace.
Maybe you need legal assistance in a variety of other areas, including housing, family law, or immigration. Whatever the reason you are seeking representation, money should not be a reason you cannot get the help you need. There are many places to turn to if you are trying to find out how to get help paying for a lawyer.
Can I Get a Lawyer for Free Through Nonprofit Organizations by State?
If you are looking into options on how to get help paying for a lawyer, you should consider seeking help from nonprofit organizations in your state. There are a variety of organizations that will help you for no fee at all. They will do their work for you “pro bono,” or “for the public good.”
Even if you are not seeking a lawyer for the purpose of legal representation and are just seeking a lawyer to answer questions about your legal rights, you can contact a nonprofit organization in your state for free legal aid.
What is the Maximum Income to Qualify for Legal Aid?
Not everyone is qualified to receive legal aid. If you are having financial needs, you may be able to find a way to pay for a lawyer with no money. For instance, if are on social assistance, you will most likely qualify for legal aid.
You may also qualify for legal aid if you aren’t on social assistance and have a little extra money in the bank, but the rule of thumb is that you are eligible for legal aid if you have little or no money after paying for your monthly essentials — food, shelter, etc.
The type of services you are eligible for depends on your annual gross family income. For instance, if you are a family of 1 and your annual gross income is below $22,270, then you will be eligible for Duty Counsel assistance and summary legal advice, which can be conducted through a toll-free telephone service. In order to take part in the Certificate Program, or Legal Aid Certificate, which includes representation by a private practice lawyer, a family of 1 must have an annual gross income below $14,453.
For domestic violence cases, in order to receive representation under the Certificate Program, a family of 1 must have an annual gross income below $22,270. If your income is higher than the levels of eligibility, then you may still be able to qualify for the Certificate Program if you are below the second set of income levels and enter into a Contribution Agreement. To determine if you are eligible, check the requirements online and then call for a free consultation.
Ask Your Lawyer if They Accept Payment Plans
It is not always possible to pay a lawyer with no money, but you never know until you ask. If you know that you are having financial difficulty and need a payment plan or work done “pro bono,” then communicate these things to your attorney. Most attorneys will not make you pay their full fees up front and many will be willing to discuss a payment plan that will work for you. As long as you pay the agreed-to monthly installments, then there should be no problem in paying in an installment plan.
What Type of Lawyer You Need
One thing to consider is what type of lawyer you need. Many personal injury attorneys work on contingency, which means that they will only receive a fee if the case succeeds. If the case succeeds, then the fee that they earn is determined by a statute, which claims that they will receive a set percentage of what the money client recovers.
On the other hand, if you need a criminal defense attorney, then you need to pay them regardless of the outcome of the case. They cannot promise a certain outcome on your case and, since there are no damages to be recovered, cannot rely on a statute to say how much they will earn. That being said, many criminal defense attorneys, as well as family, immigration, estate, and civil attorneys will work with you, the client, on a payment plan. You may be required to pay a percentage of the fees up front, but then you will be able to pay in affordable installments.
Visit a Law School
If you are a student, then you should seek help from your university. Many universities will have student legal services freely available to all of their students who pay the semester activity fee. Full-time, licensed attorneys, in conjunction with second and third-year law students, will handle your case confidentially, professionally, and with no additional cost to you.
If you are not a student, you can go to a law school for assistance. Many law schools offer pro bono legal assistance to low-income individuals. A law student or recent graduate will handle your case. A lot of law schools encourage their law students to complete a certain number of hours of pro bono work during each year of law school, ie 20 hours per year.
Some law schools may compensate those students with credit, while many adopt the American Bar Association definition of pro bono, which emphasizes law-related services without compensation — including income or academic credit. If you are a low-income individual wondering how to pay for a lawyer with no money, then you should consider seeking representation at a law school.
Get a Legal Loan
If you are not able to pay for a lawyer with no money, then do the next best thing. Get a legal loan. When you get a legal loan, you can pay for a lawyer with no money down. And then you can use the money from the legal loan to pay what you owe for the set up payment plan. If the attorney requires a retainer fee up front, then you may need to consider getting emergency cash loans for a lawyer to cover it.
Emergency cash loans can help you finance those required retainer fees, as well as fixed flat fees. In order to truly pay for a lawyer with no money, you might have to find money from somewhere else. You will technically pay for a lawyer with money, but it will feel like you pay for a lawyer with no money; in the end, at least you would be no worse off than if you had actually had to spend your own money.
What to Know Before Getting a Legal Loan
The most important thing with loans is to know beforehand how much the lawyer is going to charge you. You do not want to take out a loan for more money than you actually need; the larger the loan, the higher the interest you have to pay back later. It is optimal to find a lawyer with no retainer, but if you must pay a retainer, it is better to find a lawyer who only earns their fees, if possible, through a contingency plan.
It could also benefit you to choose a lawyer who has a payment plan that allows you to pay a predetermined fee, so that you know exactly how much you will need to pay them overall. Lawyers who get paid by the hour are not as good to choose when having to pay with a lawyer loan, since you can’t exactly know how many hours the case will require.
Find Ways to Save on Legal Fees
Instead of the idea to pay for a lawyer with no money, consider the idea to pay for a lawyer with less money. How to get help paying for a lawyer always starts with minimizing your cost. It’s not as exciting as the idea to pay for a lawyer with no money, but you will still come out in the end with more than you might have. Above all, make sure that you choose a lawyer that you trust. Lawyers are there to help you, but they are also there for a paycheck. If you choose a lawyer you can trust and follow a few simple steps, you can save some money. Follow these guidelines and reduce your legal fees:
- Research and Preparation — Before you contact any lawyers, do as much research as you can. Take advantage of the free online help tools and brochures that many organizations have on their websites. Make sure you understand your case, the entire legal process, what kind of lawyer(s) you need, and what the lawyer can do for you. Make sure you have all of the documents your lawyer will need for the case, and organize them so that it is easy to find what you need when you need it.
- Lower Billable Hours — Many attorneys bill by the hour. If you want to save on legal fees, then decrease the time your lawyer must spend on your case. Do not call them first; wait for them to call you. The time they spend with you on each phone call will count as time you need to pay for, so unless something is very important to the case, do not bother your attorney with a litany of phone calls.
- Ask Questions — If you do not understand a word or theory, ask your attorney. Do not sign anything that you haven’t read and completely understand. Asking questions when you first realize you do not understand will save you time, and thus money, later when you have to finally ask about what you didn’t understand and now have to catch up your knowledge with everything that has happened since you first became confused.
If you need services from an attorney and are under financial constraints, you may feel overwhelmed. When you are overwhelmed, then try to relax and consider all of the options available to you. If you qualify for legal aid, then you truly can get a lawyer for no money. You could go to a nonprofit organization or a law school for free legal services. If you do not qualify under the guidelines, then you can still find cheaper options or lawyers who are willing to take your case for free to fill their pro bono quota.
If you do not qualify for legal aid, then speak to your attorney about your options. Remember: You don’t know for sure if you can or cannot get help or a payment plan unless you ask. Once you have exhausted all of your options for legal counsel, there are ways to save on legal fees, and if those are still too high for you, then you can apply for a legal and/or emergency cash loan. Don’t give up. Do not forget that you are not alone, and there are options out there for you.
Grace Douglas is a master candidate in international security management by day and a personal finance writer by night! With powers in finance, writing, and languages that she received by being exposed to high dosages of university courses and being bitten by booklice while working in a rare books library, Grace loves to use her powers for good rather than evil. If you need help with budgets or personal loan questions, then just call Grace, your friendly neighborhood FinanceWoman!