How to Find Legal Help When You Can’t Afford a Lawyer

by Susan Paige
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The number of Australians facing a lawsuit with no funds to hire an attorney is rising every year. According to a recent survey conducted by the Fifth National Law Firm, requests for pro bono (no charge) representation have significantly increased in every region of the country. The exorbitantly high rates some lawyers charge, coupled with typically underfunded and overwhelmed legal aid services are mostly to blame for this distressing statistic.

Getting proper legal advice or representation in court without the means to pay can be quite challenging, but certainly not impossible. What follows are several suggestions on how to achieve this:

Local law schools are an excellent place to start, due to the fact that most universities are being encouraged by the Australian Bar Association to focus on “experiential learning”. This means students will be required to work with actual clients on real-life cases. Providing you meet the low-income standards, you will benefit greatly from the collaboration of student(s), supervising faculty, and/or active bar members who can monitor the whole proceedings.

Pro Bono work is not a strict requirement of lawyers and law firms, but is taught and encouraged as one of the most important ethical obligations of the profession. Many regions have lawyer referral services that can connect you with free or reduced fee consults. In addition, most major metropolitan areas have “ask-the-lawyer” hotlines available to get free legal advice over the phone. If your case appears to have all the signs of “gross injustice”, many lawyers will be more than happy to take the work on a pro bono basis, to enhance their legal reputation.

Retired, non-practicing lawyers are a rich source of all types of legal advice. While perhaps not willing or able to actually accompany you in the courtroom, they can still offer invaluable help, resulting from their years of experience and contacts. Often times, you will find retired lawyers actively seek to aid impoverished individuals, owing to their more altruistic perspective on the law and its role in society.

No matter how desperate you are, there are two options that generally end up being more trouble than they’re worth. The first is seeking the help of a legal aid clinic. Most of the time, these clinics are woefully understaffed and overloaded with demands for their services. Even if you get on their list, the wait time could seem like an eternity. Another problem is the income requirements are very stringent, and you have to be truly destitute to qualify.

The second ill-advised option is to represent yourself in court. At first, this may seem like a good idea, but by the time you’ve done all the tedious research on your case, filed the proper papers, and met all the deadlines, you may not have any energy left to even enter a courtroom! The vast amount of time it takes to adequately prepare for trial is hardly worth whatever legal fees you might save.

If you are facing a pending trial and can’t afford a lawyer, please contact Prime criminal lawyers for expert, professional advise on what your best course of action should be.

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