by the American Bar Assn and the Library
LEGAL SERVICES OFFICES
Most communities are served by one or more legal services program offices. These programs exist to provide free legal services in civil (not criminal) cases to individuals who have little or no income. Services are provided by staff lawyers and paralegals who have expertise with those types of cases most commonly encountered by individuals living below or near the poverty level. Eligibility for service is determined, in part, by income guidelines. For example, to be eligible a household of one would need to have an adjusted gross income less than $9,338 and a household of four an adjusted gross income of less than $18,938.
Because of the high demand for services, and limited staff resources, legal services programs cannot serve everyone who needs assistance. Programs are only able to accept a limited number and type of cases. You should consult the community services pages of your local phone book or look in the white pages under "Legal Services of..." for the name and number of the legal services program nearest you.
PRO BONO PROGRAMS
Another way to find a lawyer to provide free legal representation in civil cases is by contacting a pro bono program -- also known as volunteer lawyer programs. Pro bono programs are operated by state, county or local bar associations; by legal services programs; by other agencies in the community or independently. They use local attorneys who have agreed to provide free legal representation to eligible persons referred by the pro bono program. There are tens of thousands of attorneys throughout the country who volunteer their services through these programs.
Like legal services offices, pro bono programs generally have financial and case type limitations. Certain pro bono offices serve only one client group (e.g. people with AIDS) or provide assistance for only one type of case (e.g. bankruptcy). Other programs provide legal representation for a wide range of legal problems.
For a listing of local pro bono programs, check your phone book or call your local bar association.
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