Sindel Noble

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How can I afford a lawyer when I am barely making ends meet?

When it comes to criminal law, anyone charged with a crime is constitutionally entitled to a lawyer. Defendants who lack the resources to hire their own attorneys are assigned public defenders who represent them at no charge to the defendant. While this sounds nice, what it means in practice is that there are a lot of public defenders juggling too many clients. These lawyers often lack the time and resources to give each case the attention it deserves.

That is one big reason why it is usually better to hire your own lawyer if possible. However, if you are, say, a poor college student or part of a struggling low-income family, how can you come up with a way to afford a lawyer?

Take out loans and use your credit card

In normal situations, it is not a good idea to take out unnecessary loans or to rack up charges on a credit card. However, your freedom and future are at stake, and it may surprise you in many cases what a lawyer costs. For example, you may have guessed off the top of your head that you would have to fork over $5,000 or $6,000 for a lawyer to fight a DWI charge. In reality, the costs might not even top $2,000. You will likely end up spending more in fines, court fees and the like, and you can avoid much of that if you get your charge reduced or dismissed.


Many crowdfunding platforms allow you to fundraise for a lawyer. Create a compelling page with high-quality text, photos and video; market it well; and you could get some or all of the necessary money.

Work out payment plans

Some lawyers work with you to arrange payment plans. You may have to pay some money up front, but the rest of the bill you pay in installments. It can be a good idea to meet with multiple attorneys and compare their fees and any payment plan possibilities.

Other options include talking with the people at law schools and legal aid clinics. You can also ask the judge to get your public defender changed but will need good documentation to show that the defender is not adequately representing you.

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    • Richard H.Sindel | Best Lawyers In America | Best Lawyers - 2016
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