Sunday, May 17, 2009

How to find a pro bono lawyer

If you're having trouble paying for legal professional advice and representation, there may be no better time than now to seek pro bono services. As the economy continues to tank, layoffs among top law firms finds lawyers in the same boat as everyone else. 

Of course, there's no way to tell if these newly unemployed attorneys will be willing to take on pro bono work as a result of a layoff. But it certainly doesn't hurt to bolster their resumes as they look to join a law firm that's hiring. 

A long-standing pro bono recommendation by the American Bar Association (ABA) states that ethical rules should compel any attorney to contribute to "pro bono" or to "the public good" by logging at least 50 hours a year to pro bono work. Top law firms even in good times will often encourage pro bono work to enhance their firm's standing as good corporate citizens, although the 50-hour per year ideal is a goal rarely met in the real world.

Your local state bar association is a good place to start if you are seeking a lawyer to handle your case without a fee. Statistically, you're in a better position to find a pro bono lawyer in the US if you live in major cities like Chicago, New York, Washington DC, LA or Atlanta where well-heeled law firms are better positioned to take on pro bono cases.

You may also want to check with advocacy groups that fight for kids and families, victims of crime, discrimination, or advocate for immigration and aslyum, etc., which may apply to your particular case.

If you live near a law school that funds a public interest or pro bono program, check to see if there is a community center or law clinic where professional services are offered by students usually under the supervision of a professor.

Finally, don't be afraid to go the old-fashioned route, by asking friends or family members for recommendations. A local clergyman may also be helpful in finding a church member who would be willing to take your case on a pro bono basis. 

More about finding a pro bono lawyer around the Web:

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