[ The Money Side of Life™ ]

Legal First Aid: Finding a low-cost lawyer

By Jennie Bartlemay on March 15th, 2010 •

Many situations could require the assistance of a lawyer. Purchasing a house, landlord/tenant disputes, starting a business, and workplace problems are just a few. Fortunately, not all lawyers cost an arm and a leg. There are options for different situations and income levels.

Finding help

One of the few legalese terms that most people have heard of is pro bono, commonly understood to mean “free lawyer.” It actually means “for the public good.” There are two things to know about pro bono council: First, there is no charge. Second, and more important, the case usually needs to have some significance to the public at large (social causes, charities, etc.) or peak a lawyer’s interest in some way. If you think you might have such a dispute, visit abanet.org/legalservices/probono and look for the local pro bono programs directory.

Even without the benefit of pro bono representation, there are options for getting low-cost legal help. Visit lawhelp.org to find free legal aid programs in your state for low- and moderate-income people. Some law schools have clinical programs that provide free or reduced-rate legal services. You can also google “legal aid” followed by your city or state to find local programs.

If you’re a university student, check with student services to see if your school offers free or low-cost legal help. This is a great resource for students because student legal services frequently handle common student issues like landlord disagreements, employment grievances or family-law matters.

If all else fails, you’ll need to find an attorney on your own. Go to lawyers.com or lawyers.findlaw.com to use their find-a-lawyer systems. Also ask friends, family or professional acquaintances for suggestions.

Footing the bill

As with any other service, it’s important to discuss the cost before making a deal.

  • Most lawyers quote a price before scheduling a consultation.
  • It’s okay to negotiate the fee and shop around.
  • A “retainer” fee is not the total fee, but an estimate of what they think it would cost to resolve the issue. The final bill may go over this amount.
  • If the required services are relatively simple, you might ask the attorney to agree to a maximum fee. In this case, you are not expected to pay more than a certain amount. Maximum fees aren’t appropriate if the case is more complex--making it impossible to determine a maximum fee--or if the lawyer is already working for a reduced fee.
The Bottom Line

Paying a lawyer for bankruptcy proceedings doesn’t have to cost more than the debt you owed in the first place. If the time should come when you need to hire a lawyer, whether you’re fighting a criminal charge or just drawing up a will, you can take comfort in knowing where to start.

Sources: expertlaw.com; umich.edu; ucla.edu; findlaw.com; law.com; lawsociety.org; ufl.edu

lawyer Olathe Kansas

Check out some of these links provided. They should be helpful. I'm a lawyer and know the importance of my clients knowing what they need before they hire me. Knowing what you need and knowing your options will help you so much! Save you time and money. And save me frustration and time.

by lawyer Olathe Kansas on March 26, 2010

Thanks for the good word. Knowing what you need and being aware or your options are both important before hiring a lawyer.

by jenniebartlemay on March 29, 2010
Tobler Law

Thanks for the post! A lawyer could be useful in so many situations, but paying a high price for them defeats the purpose.

by Tobler Law on September 15, 2010

Hi Tobler. A lawyer can be useful and even necessary. Sometimes quality comes with high prices, but when you're arguing with your landlord, a $300/hr lawyer does defeat the purpose. Thanks.

by jenniebartlemay on September 16, 2010
Mendel Potok

Is there a site to compare nation averages for rates? I've actually had a few potential clients say they would like to see who works for cheaper (you have to expect that as a DUI Lawyer) and wonder if there is a web page I can direct them too. Our rates are pretty affordable, and it would be better if they could hear that from someone else.

by Mendel Potok on December 10, 2010

 It would be great if there were. Its difficult to write about money in legal situations because each case is unique. My understanding is that the only way to "price compare" legal services is to call and ask for a quote, which isn't easy to give because the price depends on the case and an estimate of how many hours might be required to complete it. The only other suggestion might be to ask the local legal aid office to see if someone there knows of a local firm with low rates. Make sure to talk to someone who has been there for a while, rather than just the person working the phones. 

by jenniebartlemay on December 10, 2010
Shyloh Injury Lawyer

Thank you for this article! Sometimes an personal injury lawyer is in dire need but not everyone can afford it. So thank you again for this article I am going to forward this to a friend and see if it can help them too!

by Shyloh Injury Lawyer on February 9, 2011

 Thanks! We're glad it helped. 

by jenniebartlemay on February 11, 2011
Mackenzie Karl

I read your blog and find it very useful. It really helps peoples to find good low cost business lawyer. Regards, Business Lawyer Los angeles

by Mackenzie Karl on February 28, 2011

 Thanks! We try!

by jenniebartlemay on March 1, 2011
business lawyer orange county

I am appreciating your blog,but i want to tell you something that i know about this blog is that by using the law to solve problems or seek justice is expensive business. Many people do not fight for their rights because they just cannot afford the fees charged by lawyers and courts. 

by business lawyer orange county on May 20, 2011

 Agreed. It is very daunting to fight for your rights when you don't have any money for legal fees. It's part of the reason I wanted to write the article. There are some resources readers can use to find organizations and lawyers to help despite lack of funds. It's important to know your rights and to stick up for yourself when you can. 

by jenniebartlemay on May 23, 2011
Michael Kushner

Really the blogging is spreading its wings quickly. Your write up is a good example of Finding a low-cost lawyer. Thanks a lot for this contribution it's been very useful for me.


orange county business lawyer

by Michael Kushner on February 24, 2012

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