Can’t Afford an Attorney?

What happens when you can’t afford an attorney? If you find yourself involved in a legal dispute, but can’t afford an attorney, you may still be able to hire a lawyer for your matter without paying for legal fees out of your pocket.

Several ways to hire a lawyer without necessarily paying them directly or even at all.

Free Legal Assistance

Can’t-Afford-an-AttorneyYou may qualify for free legal assistance from a legal aid organization, law student clinic, or volunteer attorney if you meet the Federal Poverty Guidelines and other requirements. If you are accused of a crime that has a punishment that includes time in jail or prison, then you are entitled to have a free attorney appointed for you. In civil matters, you may not be entitled to an attorney, but there are some excellent resources for those needing free legal assistance in Miami-Dade County.

Contingency Attorneys

An attorney might work on your case in exchange for a portion of the amount they win for you called a contingency fee. A typical contingency fee is 30-40%, although it can be more in business cases or with court approval for personal injury cases. In these arrangements, the lawyer takes a risk by betting their effort and skill on a favorable outcome. For successful claim of $150,000.00 would earn the attorney $45,000-60,000.00.

Then, the attorney would subtract the costs, such as filing fee, copies, postage, parking, legal research, from the remainder. The client might end up with less than half of the claimed amount owed even if there is a victory. At the end of the case, the client ends up with less of the total losses than they may feel entitled to receive. The benefit is that the client did not have to advance any legal fees or costs for the case.

Statutory Fees

In some cases, the type of claim that you have entitles you to attorney’s fees according to Florida law. The Florida legislature or U.S. Congress, decided that in these case, it is important that people have the ability to fight for their legal rights that they wanted to allow the winner to recover their legal fees.

In cases about wages or compensation for work, the employee may be entitled to win back legal fees. Another example is victims of bill collectors who violate the Florida Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. If they sue a bill collector, they may recover damages from those who violated the law. If someone willfully infringes on your trademark, you may be able to win back attorney’s fees by statute.Claims under the Civil Rights Act, for deprivation of civil rights due to race, religion, sex, or another protected class by a government officer may entitle someone to attorney’s fees.

Entitlement to Fees by Contract

Even if you aren’t entitled to win back your legal fees by statute, you can agree to it by contract. If you are in a dispute with someone that involves a contract with an attorney’s fee provision, you may be able to win back your attorney’s fees. The risk of suing about such a contract is that you could lose, and then you would have to pay the other side’s attorney’s fees.

While we do not recommend that you try to handle the case yourself, we have provided some resources to help those who decide to go forward pro se in another article, “Handling a Case Yourself.”


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Author Bio

Jane Muir

Jane Muir is a Shareholder and Managing Partner of J. Muir & Associates, a Miami business law firm she founded in 2018. With more than 13 years of experience in business, she is dedicated to representing clients in a wide range of legal areas, including business litigation, contracts, corporate formation, insolvency, nonprofits, partnership disputes, and other business law matters.

Jane received her Juris Doctor from the University of Miami School of Law and is a member of the Dade County Bar Association and Coral Gables Bar Association. She has received numerous accolades for her work, including being named among the “20 Under 40” in 2016 by Brickell Magazine. Super Lawyers named her a Rising Star from 2014–2019 and selected her for the Super Lawyers status.

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