While lawyers focus on wide-ranging disciplines and practice areas, from criminal cases involving theft, arson, and homicide to other issues like personal injury or estate planning, there’s also a common thread of providing services to “the little guy.”
Lawyers use their expertise to help populations in need by providing pro bono services and defense for underserved groups. They hustle every single day so individuals get the help they deserve.
Pro Bono Legal Assistance
Lawyers around the world provide pro bono legal counsel every day. Pro bono services are rendered free of charge to defendants who can’t afford to hire an attorney (known as “indigent” by the court system) and include everything from small-scale consultations to defense at trial. Most pro bono services are for criminal cases, as the Constitution guarantees the right to legal representation, but some circumstances allow lawyers to assist in civil cases as well.
Pro Bono for Criminal Cases
Not everyone can secure free legal advice from attorneys. In fact, it’s tightly regulated and individuals must prove their financial need. In most cases, defendants seeking free representation in a criminal case have to complete an affidavit attesting to their indigent status.
After proving a financial need for free or low-cost representation, individuals facing criminal charges can get help from a few different groups of lawyers. Most of us are familiar with the first group. These are public defenders who work strictly for the state or federal government to provide counsel to folks who can’t afford to pay. But plenty of private attorneys take on pro bono criminal cases, too.
“I make it my mission to take on several pro bono cases every year in addition to my paid caseload,” says attorney Heather Arthur of Smith & Eulo Law Firm. “One’s financial situation should never adversely impact their ability to secure adequate legal counsel and win their case.” Law firms like this specialize in criminal law, including cases involving assault and battery, drug charges and sex crimes, and attorneys know that there are always two sides to every story. The qualified lawyers who take these cases ensure that their clients’ voices are heard, enforcing a just legal process.
Pro Bono for Civil Cases
It’s harder to get free legal help in civil cases. That’s because individuals have no constitutional right to free help in disputes against other people or businesses. Obtaining free or low-cost legal advice in civil cases isn’t impossible, however, and there are several avenues to explore, from legal aid to pro bono clinics.
Think of legal aid as the civil court equivalent to public defenders. These offices represent low-income clients in civil cases ranging from divorce to medical malpractice. They’re also funded at the state or federal level, but expert private attorneys frequently step up to volunteer their services.
Pro bono clinics, on the other hand, specifically connect poor individuals with private volunteer lawyers for free civil case advice. This is a simple option for folks who might not need comprehensive services to carry them all the way through a trial. Clinic attorneys are helpful in providing assistance with legal paperwork, reviewing contracts and answering basic inquiries. In rare cases, the same attorneys will take on the full length of civil cases—from filing suit to the court case—for indigent clients, especially in matters related to civil rights.
Legal Help for Underserved Populations
These groups aren’t usually given a fair shake by the justice system, so dedicated attorneys help where they can.
Immigration is a complex puzzle, and individuals often have to wade through a variety of issues on their way toward becoming U.S. citizens. Immigration attorneys provide support in several situations, whether a person requires protection on American soil or is seeking to secure citizenship.
One category of immigration legal services is removal or deportation defense. Attorneys protect immigrant clients before the courts in wide-ranging removal scenarios. Some of these include Asylum (I-589) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) (I-821). Sometimes it’s just plain unsafe for foreign-born individuals to return to their home countries, such as when those countries are affected by armed conflict or natural disaster. In cases like this, immigration attorneys work to legally enable those individuals to live and work in America for a period of time.
In other cases, the same lawyers help to secure affirmative immigration benefits. Primary services often include help with naturalization applications (based on Form N-400) to secure naturalized citizenship, as well as family-based immigrant visa petitions (based on Form I-130), for U.S. citizen relatives of immigrant(s) to prove the familial relationship and secure a green card.
“More and more immigrants are coming to the United States to pursue fresh starts away from the turmoil of their home countries,” notes Tamara Jezic of The Law Offices of Jezic & Moyse. “There’s still significant red tape in obtaining citizenship, so we simplify the process by providing guidance on paperwork and counsel in court.”
Personal Injury Cases
Probably one of the hardest situations to deal with is being hurt and discriminated against in the court system. That’s why so many lawyers work hard to make sure personal injury cases are heard fairly, no matter who you are. Physical injuries have dire ramifications for victims, from affecting their mobility to diminishing their financial security. A personal chicago injury attorney can reduce the burden by protecting victims of both or either pedestrian accident and/or vehicular accident.
Imagine if a “little old lady” crosses at the crosswalk and a truck barrels around the corner, injuring her along the way. While some may turn their nose up at the case, the most determined legal teams know that this and similar cases deserve attention and work to get legal damages for the victim. The same is true in any vehicular accident, whether the victim is young or old, black or white, male or female. Lawyer groups work to secure the financial benefits these victims deserve, including medical reimbursement and financial awards.
“Our legal team works tirelessly to defend the needs of accident victims regardless of who they are,” says Nicole Piper of Florida Car Accident Lawyer Team. “If you’ve been involved in a car accident and have extensive medical and financial needs, the most important thing is to focus on your recovery, rather than expenses.”