Effective Attorney Assistance
Legal aid is a form of legal services provided for free or at reduced costs to qualifying people with low income. It is an important component of the U.S. legal system created to help ensure people of all income levels can receive attorney representation and legal guidance when needed. Civil legal aid deals with non-criminal legal matters. For criminal cases, court-appointed public defenders work pro bono for clients who qualify for and need them.
The concept of getting what you pay for means spending an amount of money on a service or item and expecting a similar amount of effectiveness, quality and value in return. This is a logical thought process but it can have a double meaning. The same concept can ironically also mean spending an amount of money on a service or item and expecting a larger amount of effectiveness, quality and value in return. This is a generally unreasonable expectation when purchasing most items and service arrangements. Legal aid by its very nature, however, is intended to be effective beyond its cost to clients.
The Logic of Legal Aid
This juxtaposition as described above does make sense as pursuant to legal aid. U.S. citizens have the right to both a fair trial and equal treatment in the justice system regardless of financial status. Legal services need to be effective, regardless of who is paying for them and how much they cost. They must also be equally effective for victims, perpetrators and witnesses alike.
The system does have some flaws and consequently does not always deliver as intended. Still, there are ways to help make sure the legal aid services you receive are reliable and effective. Read ahead to learn more about how to qualify and apply for the effective legal aid you need today.
Explaining Legal Aid & Pro Bono Services
The Latin phrase Pro Bono Publico refers to something done for the good of the public at no charge. The American Bar Association (ABA) requires all practicing attorneys in the U.S. to complete fifty pro bono service hours each year. Required pro bono services can include unbilled work for individual clients, various causes and humanitarian organizations. This means free legal representation and services are available, albeit under certain qualifying conditions.
Public defenders deal with misdemeanor and felony criminal cases. These attorneys are assigned by the courts to represent qualifying low-income defendants in hearings and trials.
The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees every U.S. citizen the right to legal representation in cases where incarceration is a potential penalty. This is your right regardless of ability or inability to pay for legal services out-of-pocket.
Civil legal aid attorneys take on civil cases involving non-criminal situations. Legal aid services can be free or billed at reduced rates based on sliding scale income calculations. Receiving civil legal aid is not a constitutional right and is therefore sometimes more challenging to attain. Making the most of legal aid services provided to you can be essential to winning your case.
Qualifying for Civil Legal Aid Services
Qualifying for legal aid services is reliant upon household income not exceeding 125 percent of the federally declared poverty line. Applicants experiencing more extreme financial hardship will be qualified before others with less financial struggles. Being denied attorney services does not prevent applicants from receiving other free limited legal aid services or general legal guidance. Please refer to the Legal Services Corporation government website to begin qualifying procedures for legal aid services in your state.
How to Guarantee Effective Legal Aid Attorney Assistance
Elements of effective attorney assistance include dedication, experience, attention to detail and striving to get you the best result for your case. When paying private attorney fees out-of-pocket, specific results are expected in exchange for your payments. When relying on free or reduced-charge legal aid services, your expectations do not need to be diminished. Your case is equally important regardless of the origin of the legal services assisting you with it.
Organization, preparation and clear communication can all help you get the best results from your legal aid experience. Being financially qualified for legal aid is the first step. The second step is determining the viability and urgency of your case. Begin by accurately documenting all relative information pertaining to your situation. Dates, times, locations and names of all people involved in your case should be documented chronologically. People involved can include witnesses, additional victims if any, perpetrators, applicable doctors and related businesses/companies.
It is also important to document financial and medical consequences, including symptoms, loss of work and loss of other income. Be thorough but succinct when organizing lists. It is also essential to be consistent and persistent but calm. Your attorney will sort through your information and determine what can be used and what cannot.
Each case is of course unique. At the same time, civil legal aid attorneys have large caseloads and tend to be overworked. The more, thorough, organized and consistent you are, the more your case will stand out to your attorney. The type of case you have also affects what information is most important to document and present to your legal representative.
Types of Legal Aid Cases
Civil cases are non-criminal cases generally between two people, two organizations or a person and an organization. Criminal cases involve crimes and punishments. Civil cases on the other hand generally involve accusations, claims and potential rewards and reimbursements.
For example, unlawful evictions are cases between a tenant and a landlord or property management company. Senior fraud cases involve a senior citizen being defrauded by another person or fraudulent organization. Cases involving financial disputes and loss of property are frequently issues between two people. Sexual harassment cases can also be between two individual people, but can also be elevated to involve employers and/or corporations.
Organizing and preparing accurate information applies to every case. Communicating the information clearly to an attorney also applies to every case. Information required to assess the viability of your specific case will be dependent upon your circumstances and case type, however. Some additional legal aid case types include:
Rights of U.S. Veterans
Theft by deception
Unlawful termination of employment
Child custody and child support disputes