People who cannot afford a lawyer need to know that they can always count on community legal clinics and public interest lawyers that provide free legal services or “legal aid”. Although there are many such legal professionals throughout the country, there is still a shortage of lawyers who provide free legal services.
For the most part, this shortage is brought on by the legal aid services themselves. Most of the time, they have a limit on how many clients they take by imposing an income ceiling, and limiting the type of legal services they provide. In other words, the free legal clinics do not provide full legal services.
Most of the time their legal services are limited to the following: immigration status, discrimination, domestic violence, eviction, deprivation of government-provided benefits.
The limit on the legal services provided stems from the combined fear of having too many clients and not having enough resources to properly fund each case.
Although most legal aid services extend legal help to individuals, there are those that provide legal counsel to small non-profit organizations that do not have in-house counsel.
Where do legal aid services get their funding? They usually get it from different sources, including private donors, the federal government, charities, and state governments and local governments.
What specific services do legal aid clinics provide? They usually do not litigate or go to court but are actively involved in counseling, appearing in administrative hearings, and participating in informal negotiations. Sometimes, however, in the case of severe cases of injustice involving a large number of victims can prompt a legal clinic to go ahead with a large-scale impact litigation. Some of these organizations are also known to participate in activities that pushing for legal reform as well as education.
We said before that legal clinics get their funding from different. Well, there are actually those that get theirs exclusively from the LSC or the legal government. However, with strict government regulations that include careful timekeeping and a prohibition on class actions and class action work, many legal aid organizations prefer not to have it, even though the legal needs of low-income people are grossly under-met. It is estimated that even with the combined force of all the legal aid offices in the country combined, only about 20% of the legal needs of people with low income are met.
This problem actually leaves people in the lower middle class who are too rich for legal and too poor for a paid attorney with nothing in the way of legal help. There have been proposals to require all US lawyers to provide pro bono work, but this has been successfully fought off by many state bar associations.
If you live in no man’s land or belong to the lower middle class, you will need to research hard to find a lawyer who will take on your case for free or for a greatly reduced fee. There are lawyers, however, who offer contingent or conditional fee in cases where there is a large potential for payout and a high chance of winning.