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  • Writer's pictureEzra N. Goldman

Where are all the Pro Bono lawyers?

There is some misinformation out there about the availability of free legal services. If there is one goal to this blog, it is to clear up misinformation. There is such a thing as Pro Bono (free) legal service. It does exist. The American Bar Association recommends that every lawyer perform so many hours of pro bono legal services in a year. But I say "recommends" because the American Bar Association is not like the American Dental Association of the American Medical Association. They sound alike but most lawyers are NOT members of the American Bar Association, nor are they required to be. No one is bound by their standards.

That an attorney does a certain number of pro bono service hours does not make him a pro bono lawyer. After all, that is no way to make a living. So, no, much like there is no such thing as a painter who just paints people's homes for free, there is no such thing as a lawyer who does whatever people need him to for free.

Now, there are non-profits out there who function is to provide legal assistance to certain classes of needy people. The innocence project comes to mind ( and of course there is the ACLU ( There are small legal aid offices that help the indigent file bankruptcies or get child support. And every court maintains a roster of court appointed lawyers to represent those charged with crimes who can not afford counsel.

If you are in an accident, many lawyers will represent you on a contingency basis, which means that they take a percentage of what you recover. This isn't free- often this is the most costly sort of representation you can get. It just doesn't cost anything out of pocket.

But if you want to sue someone because he owes you money, or to kick out a tenant, there is essentially no such thing as a lawyer who will work for nothing for you. Sorry.

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