At some point or another, most of us need legal representation. Maybe you were involved in an accident? Perhaps you’re going through a divorce? Or maybe you’re just trying to draft a copy of your will.
Hiring legal representation can be expensive – but failure to hire a lawyer could end up costing you a lot more than your money. Here are 6 tips for what you should do when you need a lawyer but are on a tight budget:
1) Talk to family and friends: The odds are good that someone in your family – maybe a distant cousin or a seldom-heard-from uncle – either works for a law firm, or is a lawyer. If you’re in good standing with that family member, seek his or her advice. The might not be able to help you probono, but they will at least point you in the direction so that you can find an attorney on a tight budget.
2) Legal sites: These days, there are several sites like LegalZoom that can help you with a variety of legal needs at a fraction of the cost of hiring an attorney. These sites offer a variety of legal resources. First, you answer a questionnaire about your specific situation, then they will then review your form to check for errors. Most companies also have extensive legal guides, FAQ sections and a local directory of attorneys. Check these sites for the services they offer, they will usually be listed under the legal topics area of their respective website.
3) Payment plan: Some attorneys will let you work out a payment plan for their services. Some lawyers also work on contingency plans, meaning you will not owe them a dime unless you win your case. You can also check in with your state’s bar association to see if it recommends any lawyers who will work for a reduced rate.
4) Volunteers: Check to see if your community has a Legal Aid association, where you can hire an attorney at a much-reduced rate. There are eligibility requirements for these, and you might not qualify if your income isn’t low enough.
5) Law students: Check with your local university to see if they offer a program of which law students work on behalf of low-income clients (with supervision from a licensed attorney). It’s great experience for the students, and the cost is minimal when compared to regular attorney fees.
6) Court-appointed attorney: People often try to avoid using a court-appointed attorney, simply because they are fearful that they won’t get the attention they deserve. Remember, though, you are allowed legal representation, whether you can afford it or not. If you can’t afford an attorney, the court will appoint one for you upon request.