Pennsylvania Pro Bono Legal Aid
Attorneys and lawyers are familiar with local, state and national laws. Selecting one for your legal concerns can help make the process both easier and faster. However, fees for legal services can be high and unaffordable if you are on a fixed income.
Fortunately, pro bono lawyers often take cases for free or at a reduced cost. The term “pro bono” means “for the public good” in Latin, and these legal professionals provide their services for that reason.
Find out how to locate and hire one of these types of lawyers in Pennsylvania by reviewing the steps below.Whether you are looking for attorneys in Philadelphia or another Pennsylvania city, there are two avenues in which you can obtain affordable services.
Legal Aid Programs
Many pro bono lawyers are part of organizations dedicated to providing low-cost and free aid. These groups may be associated with the local or state government.
For instance, federal grants help sponsor free legal aid to residents in need by subsidizing lawyer fees. To be eligible for free aid, residents may need to be categorized as one of the following groups:
- Victim of domestic abuse
- Reside in a rural area
- Live in a government-declared disaster area
Pro Bono LawyersSome attorneys may volunteer their time and know-how for charities or causes they believe in. Law firms and attorneys in Philadelphia and other Pennsylvania cities may take civil rights cases, for instance, without pay as part of an ongoing commitment to prevent discrimination.
Likewise, a city bar association may require members to dedicate a certain number of hours to assisting local low-income residents. Or, legal professionals may help community organizations and nonprofits improving the area.
Similarly, law students may offer pro bono services as part of gaining practical experience. These students will be under the supervision of practicing lawyers or professors.
As a result, services from pro bono lawyers may not require clients to meet eligibility requires like having a low income.
Again, checking local law firms’ and universities’ websites for free legal aid is the most convenient way of identifying available legal professionals. Specifically, the directory of the American Bar Association lists types of legal options including pro bono and reduced-cost services.
Additionally, you may consider:
- Asking friends and family if they know of a legal professional that would provide services for free or at a reduced rate.
- Checking within your community, such as religious groups or local charities, for assistance in paying for legal aid.
- Using self-help services at courthouses or legal clinics.
Process of Obtaining Pro Bono Lawyers in PennsylvaniaIn some cases, the government may assign free legal aid as part of a court-appointed public defender. However, if you are looking for legal assistance not regarding charges, then you will need to search for a legal professional on your own.
Keep in mind that attorneys in Philadelphia and other major metropolitan areas are more likely to provide services free of charge.
Eligibility for Legal AidOften, you will need to apply for help from legal aid programs. The application process varies by provider, but you will need to prove you are eligible for free.
Depending on the program, this may mean showing:
- Financial documents, such as pay stubs, bank account statements or enrollment in other assistance programs, to indicate a monetary need.
- Proof of categorical eligibility, such as being a disabled veteran, noncitizen or having HIV/AIDS.
- Evidence of need, such as being an abusive household or living in an area affected by a disaster.
Working With Pro Bono LawyersFree attorneys may assist with your case but require you to do much of the legwork. This means you will need to provide all necessary documents relevant to your case as well as follow explicit instructions.
For example, pro bono lawyers may guide you through the legal process but require you to complete and file the forms yourself.
Since the attorney is dedicating his or her time, it is best to come to all scheduled appointments prepared. Attorneys in Philadelphia and other busy areas may only dedicate a set number of hours for your case, and wasting time can negatively affect the outcome.
Likewise, make sure to communicate effectively and act professionally. An attorney may drop you as a client if you are rude, inconsistent or unable to uphold your responsibilities.