Tag Archives: pro bono programs

Guaranteed Free Legal Help and Advice by U.S. Constitution

People charged with a crime that might lead to imprisonment, who cannot afford a lawyer, are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution to receive free legal counsel. People in this situation should request the appointment of a lawyer when they first appear in court. Legal aid programs are available to help those who need legal help but cannot afford to pay for the services of an attorney.

In non-criminal or “civil” cases, a person does not have the right to a free lawyer. However, there are many legal aid and pro bono programs, which can provide them with legal help at no charge. Individuals or families with annual incomes below the federal poverty guidelines are generally eligible to receive free legal assistance. In addition, people who are elderly, disabled, the victims of domestic violence, enlisted in the military, or who are in other special circumstances, may be eligible for help, regardless of their income.

When determining whether or not to accept a case, free legal service providers consider several factors. The most important of which are legal matters that impact:

  • A household’s ability to meet its basic human needs for protection from violence and abuse
  • Access to medical assistance
  • Subsistence income

Some of the cases commonly accepted for more extensive legal representation include:

  • Domestic Violence Orders of Protection (when legal representation is needed)
  • Denials/terminations of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits
  • Financial exploitation or abuse of the elderly or persons with disabilities
  • Problems associated with nursing home care or paying for nursing home care

Legal aid offices employ staff lawyers to provide help to low-income clients. The lawyers are usually experienced in the types of problems that poor clients often encounter. In addition, there are community-based programs that provide legal assistance. Some of these operate with small budgets and do not have the resources to serve all eligible people. Therefore, they may turn away some applicants.

Federally-funded organizations in Illinois which provide free legal services to the poor are:

1. Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation http://www.lollaf.org/ 618.462.0029; 800.642.5570, serving the southern half of Illinois
2. Prairie State Legal Services http://www.pslegal.org/ 815.965.2134, serving the northern half of the state except Cook County
3. Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago http://www.lafchicago.org/ 312.341.1070, serving Cook County

Those unable to obtain assistance from a legal aid office can turn to the pro bono programs that are often sponsored by local bar associations, where lawyers in private practice volunteer to take on cases free of charge for those who cannot afford to pay. Most legal aid offices make referrals to pro bono lawyers.

Source : http://www.illinoislawyerfinder.com