What Can You Do If You Cannot Afford a Lawyer?


It is quite common knowledge that lawyers are pretty expensive. Their average hourly rate in the U.S. Can go anywhere between $280-$300 and even if there are some that charge for even less, they are still out of reach for people in low-income areas.

That being said, you will need legal services if you are facing a case. For criminal cases, in the event that you cannot find a lawyer or cannot afford one, then the court will be able to provide one for you.

However, this is not the case for civil cases and other cases other than the ones that involve criminal law. You are going to need legal representation and you can only do that if you find a lawyer.

That being said, if you are incapable of paying for one, what can you do?

Legal Aid

For people who are unable to afford their own attorney, the first thing that you should look into would be to get legal aid.

The term ‘legal aid’ is actually an umbrella term that encompasses any legal services that are granted to people who are unable to afford them. Such services vary depending on a person’s location, but the main idea is that there is always some sort of service no matter what country you are in.

For instance, some law schools would allow their junior law associates (or graduating law students) to provide legal services pro bono (which is a Latin term meaning “for the public good).

Lawyers who provide pro bono services give it for free and is generally done because they can get some experience handling cases on their own. This is a good first step for people in low-income countries that couldn’t afford their own lawyer.

There are also some nonprofit organizations that provide free or heavily discounted legal services as well. You just have to search over the internet to find one that is located in an area near you.

Different Legal Aid Models

In the aspect of legal aid, there are different models out there depending on your country. Here are some common ones:

  • Legal Clinics- Such institutions mainly handle civil cases only (criminal cases are handled by the court and they will give you an attorney if you cannot afford one). Just take note that these institutions do not play games. They will ask you plenty of questions and may even give you some tests to ensure that you are not taking advantage of free legal aid (especially if you are capable of getting your attorney in the first place).
  • Law Firms- There are some law firms that exist solely to provide free legal services to people who cannot afford them. They are usually funded by government grants, private donations, or the LSC.
  • Pro Bono Attorneys- As mentioned earlier, there are some people that would want to gain experience, thus providing low-income earners access to free legal services. You can go to a law school or a law firm to get such.