Last Updated on January 19, 2024 by Lori Pace
The establishment of the American Bar Association (ABA) was in 1878 with the goal of establishing a legal and ethical framework for the American people. It is still a membership-based organization that remains committed to its mission, which is to defend liberty and pursue justice. In this article, find out how to get free legal assistance from the American Bar Association.
Who is entitled to a free lawyer?
The Constitution provides free legal assistance to those who have been charged with a criminal offense that could lead to prison and cannot afford an attorney. When you appear in court, you can request a public lawyer if you are in this situation.
If a court determines that a person is “indigent”, meaning they have few assets and cannot afford to hire an attorney, the county funds will either pay for a private lawyer from the court or a public defense program. They allow some public defenders to charge an “application fee” for their services, but this is typically a small amount.
Who else qualifies for a free lawyer?
You do not have a right to free legal representation in “civil”, or non-criminal, cases. There are many programs that provide free legal assistance to the poor for civil cases. The programs are for people with income below 125 percent of the federal poverty level, but they can also help those who earn slightly more.
People with disabilities, elderly, victims of domestic abuse, in the military, or under other special circumstances, may also be eligible, even if they have a higher income. These community-based programs are often run on very limited budgets, and they don’t have the resources to help everyone who is eligible. They therefore only handle certain cases and turn away many people.
What do I do if I can’t get free legal help?
You can also hire a lawyer to do part of your legal work, and then handle the rest yourself. This is called “unbundled” services. You can try to find legal information or try to resolve the issue yourself.
American Bar Association Services
Legal Service/Legal Aid Office
Legal aid offices also employ lawyers as staff to help poor clients. Lawyers are often experts in the problems poor clients face most frequently.
Pro bono programs are for people with low income to find lawyers willing to take on their cases at no cost. The local or state bar associations usually sponsor these programs.
Lawyer Referral Service
Many state and local bar associations offer referral services for lawyers that are geared toward public service. These services interview clients to identify problems that a lawyer can help with. The service will refer you to an attorney if a lawyer is able to help. If the problem doesn’t require a lawyer to solve, the service can provide you with information about other organizations that might be able to help.
ABA Free Legal Answers
Free Legal Answers offers virtual legal advice. Users who qualify can post civil legal questions on the website of their state. Lawyers offer basic legal advice and information without the expectation of long-term representation. For those who can’t afford an attorney, the website provides information and advice about non-criminal matters. The lawyer does not charge a fee to use the system, or to provide advice and information.