For most people, involvement with the law begins and ends at traffic tickets. If you’ve not committed a crime, been injured, or had to dispute a divorce, you have probably not had a reason to speak with an attorney or had to figure out how to get representation for your issues…assuming there are legit issues.
Are there issues? Can an attorney even do anything to help with those issues? Can you afford one? How do you find where to look?
Types of Legal Aid
It’s well known that someone has a constitutional “right to an attorney” for legal matters, but that’s frequently misunderstood. Unfortunately, that is for criminal law cases only. This is where Public Defenders are utilized. For those who cannot afford representation for a criminal matter, the state will provide an attorney to argue on your behalf.
Legal Aid Societies
Legal Aid Societies are often not-for-profit, localized organizations that take on cases for people who cannot afford to retain an attorney. There are often some criteria on what cases Legal Aid Societies will take. The most common of these are:
- Civil Cases only. As criminal cases are already covered by the state, Legal Aid offices do not get involved in criminal matters.
- Flat-Rate Cases only. Contingency cases, or fee-generating cases, are often not handled by Legal Aid as these cases seldom cost up-front for a client. These include personal injury, workers comp, or other cases where settlements/awards are cash bundles at the end of the case.
Some attorneys volunteer their time for cases that Legal Aid Societies do not typically take. This is 100% up to the discretion of the individual attorney, which means that they can take any type of case that they wish or pass on any case they do not wish to take.