What Do You Do When You Can’t Afford a Lawyer?


When you’re dealing with a lawsuit, you don’t just have to worry about paying for your own expenses. You also have to hire an attorney to represent you in court.

Those legal professionals don’t come cheap. In fact, the average attorney makes about $69.34 per hour and since some lawsuits can drag on for weeks, you could end up paying thousands in attorney fees.

If you can’t afford a lawyer, that thought likely seems overwhelming. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to help pay for your legal representation even if you’re working with a limited budget. Here’s what you need to know.

Make Use of Free Consultations

Believe it or not, some legal disputes and situations don’t require the help of an attorney. Unless you’re familiar with the legal system, deciding whether you should hire a lawyer can be a bit confusing.

That’s why most attorneys offer free consultations. Make use of them.

During the consultations, attorneys will ask you for details about your case. They’ll use this information to determine if they can help you, if you’re better off working with another attorney, or if you need to hire an attorney at all.

If they tell you that your situation is simple enough to handle on your own, you won’t have to worry about finding a way to pay for an attorney. This can save you thousands of dollars up-front.

However, if they do tell you that they can represent you in court, make sure you understand how they’ll charge for their services.

Reputable attorneys won’t charge you anything unless they win your case. If they do, they’ll get a certain percentage of the settlement amount determined by the court. This can vary from attorney to attorney, so make sure you know what they’ll ask for before you sign a contract.

Always Shop Around

It sounds strange to shop for an attorney, but that’s exactly what you’ll need to do if you can’t afford a lawyer easily. Go to several consultations with lawyers in your area.

Compare their experience, their success rates with past clients, and their rates to find one you feel you can work with. Remember, if an attorney works on contingency, you won’t owe them anything unless you win your lawsuit.

If you lose, the attorney won’t get paid and you won’t owe them anything for their services.

That said, you’ll still want to choose an attorney that won’t take the bulk of your settlement amount. Remember, you need that money to cover your daily expenses.

Speak With a Local Law School

Law schools love to give their up and coming law students real-world experience. It’s how they master the ins and outs of the legal system.

Check out the law schools in your area and see if they have any legal clinics open to the public. These clinics put you in touch with law students who are able to give you legal advice (often for free) with the supervision and guidance of a senior attorney.

You’ll end up saving money while still getting the legal advice you need to succeed in your lawsuit. Just remember that some legal situations may be too complicated or advanced for legal clinics to handle.

Look for Pro Bono Attorneys

If a law clinic can’t help you or your case is too complex for law students to work on, you may want to look for a pro bono attorney. Pro bono attorneys represent you in court for free.

They’re not paid on contingency meaning they won’t take a percentage of your settlement. You’ll never have to pay for their hours spent researching your case.

Pro bono attorneys can be selective about the cases they represent because they’re so in-demand. This means you may need to contact several attorneys before you find one that’s willing to take your case or has time in their schedule to represent you.

Take Out a Personal Loan

If you can’t find an attorney willing to represent you for free or are unhappy about the level of experience affordable attorneys have, consider taking out a personal loan. Personal loans allow you to borrow money and use it however you see fit, including on attorney fees.

Most personal loan providers will look at your credit score, overall income, and existing debt before offering you a loan. The higher your credit score is, the better your interest rate will be and the more money you’ll be able to borrow.

However, the interest rates can be significantly high and you’re required to make monthly payments as soon as you accept the loan amount.

This can put a serious strain on your budget if you’re already in financial trouble because of a pending lawsuit. If you choose to take out a personal loan, make sure you can afford the payments. The last thing you want to do is borrow more money than you can afford to repay.

Consider Using a Litigation Funding Service

There is an alternative to standard loans that you can use when you can’t afford a lawyer. Pre-settlement funding is a type of loan that gives you an advance on the money you could get awarded in your lawsuit.

These loans give you cash upfront to use towards legal fees, medical treatments, and any other expenses you incur. If you win your case, the litigation funding service takes the amount you borrowed out of your court-awarded settlement. If you lose your case, you won’t owe anything at all.

Even better, there are no credit checks or income requirements. Instead, the service will look at your case and, if they think you stand a good chance of winning, they’ll loan you the money you need.

Keep in mind that not all cases will qualify for this type of funding.

You Can Still Get Help If You Can’t Afford a Lawyer

The legal system is confusing. You almost always need an experienced attorney to represent your case and help you get the settlement you deserve.

If money is tight and you can’t afford a lawyer, don’t give up hope. Use these tips to help you get the legal representation you need.

Once your lawsuit gets settled, check out our latest posts for more helpful tips on improving your personal finances for future expenses.

About Author

LaDonna Dennis

LaDonna Dennis is the founder and creator of Mom Blog Society. She wears many hats. She is a Homemaker*Blogger*Crafter*Reader*Pinner*Friend*Animal Lover* Former writer of Frost Illustrated and, Cancer...SURVIVOR! LaDonna is happily married to the love of her life, the mother of 3 grown children and "Grams" to 3 grandchildren. She adores animals and has four furbabies: Makia ( a German Shepherd, whose mission in life is to be her attached to her hip) and Hachie, (an OCD Alaskan Malamute, and Akia (An Alaskan Malamute) who is just sweet as can be. And Sassy, a four-month-old German Shepherd who has quickly stolen her heart and become the most precious fur baby of all times. Aside from the humans in her life, LaDonna's fur babies are her world.

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Bill Greenwood Law
4 years ago

You are right, there are always centers where you can get a free consultation. Also, sometimes even good and experienced lawyers take one case a year for free, as a charity.
Overall great tips, thank you!

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