Pro Bono - Consumer Information
The NFPA provides this page as a reference resource only and does not make referrals or recommendations to specific attorneys or programs. In most jurisdictions, non-attorneys are prohibited from providing legal services directly to the public. Quite often paralegals may assist attorneys in their pro bono work in much the same ways they would otherwise.
If you have a legal problem, you should have legal representation. If you have a legal issue and need assistance, you need to discuss your situation with a trained legal professional. A good place to start is your state or county bar association. All state bar associations have information available from their web site.
The information about the bar association’s programs are usually under “Public Resources” or a similar title. You can access information about how to find an attorney, specialized local programs (reduced fee programs), and other information about resolving your legal issues. Other information resources are the Federal Trade Commission and Better Business Bureau.
Definition of Pro Bono Services
Pro Bono Publico means providing or assisting to provide quality legal services in order to enhance access to justice for persons of limited means; charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental and educational organizations in matters that are designed primarily to address the legal needs of persons with limited means; or individuals, groups or organizations seeking to secure or protect civil rights, civil liberties or public rights.
Reduced Fee Programs
Many bar associations have reduced fee programs where private attorneys are willing to reduce their fees if a client's income is low. Many local bar associations have lists of attorneys who provide reduced-fee assistance. The programs do not employ the attorneys but simply work to connect the attorneys willing to offer services with the clients who need them.
Pro Bono Programs
Many bar associations have a pro bono coordinator that refers authorized legal matters to members of the bar association for representation without cost. Many of the programs are funded through special grants or coordinated with the local Legal Services office. Participating attorneys provide services at no charge to completion of the case. To be eligible, income must qualify under federally regulated guidelines and your legal problem must fall under one of the areas of law which are handled by the program. Although pro bono attorneys who agree to handle a case will not charge for their services, there may be court costs and other costs associated with the case (clients may be responsible for filing fees, court costs, and other out-of-pocket expenses)..
Volunteer attorneys provide legal services for free to low-income clients, and provide much needed help for families and individuals in the areas such as family law, bankruptcy, consumer debt, tort, landlord/tenant, wills, and immigration.
Many county bar associations organize specialized legal clinics where the public can attend to seek the legal advice of an attorney or to have a formal case opened for a formal referral. Most legal clinics will most likely be open to individuals that meet the financial guidelines.
Nearly all law schools have legal aid clinics that provide free legal assistance on some issues. Most of them provide free legal assistance to low-income people.
Special Issue Sites
• AARP - Legal Services Network: http://www.aarp.org/lsn/
• Children's Legal Protection Center: http://www.childprotect.org/
• Farmers Legal Action Group: http://www.flaginc.org/
• National Consumer Law Center: http://www.consumerlaw.org/
• National Health Law Program: http://www.healthlaw.org/
• National Housing Law Project: http://www.nhlp.org/
• National Immigration Law Center: http://www.nilc.org/
• National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty: http://www.nlchp.org/
• National Senior Citizens Law Center: http://www.nsclc.org/
• National Veterans Legal Services Program: http://www.nvlsp.org/
• Native American Rights Fund: http://www.narf.org/
Authorized Non-Attorney Resources
If non-attorneys in your state are authorized to provide legal assistance directly to the public, the paralegal association in your area may be able to provide basic information about authorized non-attorney services in your area. Many NFPA member associations have a pro bono coordinator to maintain such information.
Pro Se means "For Yourself." It refers to people who represent themselves in court or with a non-court legal problem. There are a lot of websites that provide some pro se information. Some are good. Some are not. Some charge money for their pro se help and information. Some do not. If you have to represent yourself in court or deal with a legal problem by yourself, be careful. Even if you are going to represent yourself or try to solve your own legal problem, you might want to talk with an attorney to be sure there are no hidden legal problems.