Affordable Legal Aid
Legal Aid: Pro Bono Lawyers
Pro bono, shortened from the Latin pro bono publico, means "for the good of the people". In today's increasingly litigious world, pro bono lawyers offer legal aid free of charge or at low cost for the public good. More specifically, this affordable representation is often directed toward underserved minorities or the financially challenged, such as children, the elderly, or immigrants. Alternatively, an attorney in private practice may volunteer their time and services at reduced or no cost as a lobbyist, working to improve the legal system or drafting amendments to existing laws in efforts to make justice attainable for people from all walks of life.
Fortunately for those in need of assistance with the law, the United States constitution guarantees free legal representation for persons charged with a crime that could lead to imprisonment and who have no viable means of affording a lawyer. During the accused's first appearance in court, a request can be made for the court to appoint an attorney at no cost. The request will usually need to be accompanied by an affidavit asserting that the individual has insufficient resources with which to hire counsel.
In the case of a non-criminal or civil trial, there is no constitutional provision for free legal representation. In that circumstance, the poor are still not without recourse for legal aid. There are social programs targeted toward persons with very low income, the disabled, the elderly, victims of domestic violence, those who've served in the military or other citizens in special cases where obtaining low cost legal aid would otherwise be inordinately difficult.
Free legal representation, outside of a court appointment, may be found in legal services offices. These offices have small staffs of attorneys, paralegals, and other support personnel dedicated to assisting disadvantaged clients. To maximize the efforts of their office, legal service advocates specialize in the areas of law which are most critically needed by the minorities which they serve: family, bankruptcy, custody hearings, adoptions, and estate planning.
Lawyers are highly skilled and educated professionals, and their services command high rates of pay. While a person in the US may be entitled to represent themselves in a court of law, there is no substitute for expert counsel. Taking advantage of lawyers volunteering their services for free or at reduced costs is not only advisable but in some cases a guaranteed legal right.