How to Find a Free Immigration Lawyer in the U.S.: Three Proven Ways

If you want to hire an immigration lawyer in the U.S., you’ll find that their fees vary widely. Some ask for tens of thousands of dollars per case. The rates of the big immigration firms are usually in the $8,000 to $10,000 range. So-called low-paying lawyers ask up to $5,000 per case, such as an asylum case, Politadvice writes.

But what if you don’t have money for a lawyer, and even the small fee as an ordinary human rights lawyer is too much? You can take the case on your own (usually not a good idea) or you can turn to a pro bono (public human rights defender).

Pro bono (short for “pro bono publico”) is a Latin phrase meaning “for the public good. In modern parlance, it means that the lawyer will do the work for free, without asking the client for money.

There are three different types of public benefit lawyers:

Lawyers who work on a pro bono basis.
Law school attorneys.
Private attorneys who volunteer their free time to help.
Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Strategies for finding an attorney in each category differ slightly, too.

Charitable Organizations.

An extensive list of these organizations can be found on the website of the Office of Immigration Review (EOIR). This agency actually runs the country’s immigration courts. The list is filtered by state, which is quite handy when searching. If you don’t see your location, click on the closest state and you will see charities operating near your area. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (an association of private and nonprofit attorneys) has a similar and probably more comprehensive list. Many of the organizations on these lists are pro bono. Some charge a “nominal fee” (although it is said that in some cases a “nominal fee” of thousands of dollars was required, but this is the exception rather than the norm). It is worth noting that most of these organizations will not take on a case if they are sure you can pay for the services.

The main disadvantage of charitable organizations is that they may be busy and there simply will not be time to review your case. This is particularly true if you need your case reviewed as soon as possible. If you are lucky enough to get help from a charity, they will help you with their own resources or find volunteers to work under their supervision. Nonprofit organizations are excellent at training and supervising volunteer lawyers, so in most cases you get good representation within your case.

How do you get support from one of these charities? It is often very difficult. You will need to call them, email them, visit a number of organizations in person until you find one that is willing to help you. This is where you have to be persistent and check out any options. If one organization can’t take your case, see if they can recommend someone else. Sometimes finding a lawyer at a charity may seem like a full-time job. But those who make the effort are more likely to find good representation for themselves.

Law Schools.

Another type of free representation is law schools. Many have programs in which law professors supervise law students on a case-by-case basis. Students do all the actual work on the case taken. This list (in Excel format) from the Law Professors Blog Network is a great way to start somewhere. Other than that, if you try typing in the search engine query Law School Immigration Clinic and adding the city name, you might find some results. Again, these schools get a lot of referrals for help, and like charities, they also have limited resources. So sometimes it can be difficult to find someone who can take on your case.

If you are represented by a law school, you will be working mostly with students, because the purpose of the school is to provide experience to students through working with real cases. And here comes the obvious question: can law students adequately represent the applicant in the case? However, the students’ lack of experience is filled with enthusiasm and energy. Observations also show that the work of such schools is positive. One of the main problems in finding a human rights advocate at such schools is that the timing of the case must fit the school’s calendar. Sometimes this leads to delays, or, on the contrary, to an accelerated review of the case.

Free programs

Many law firms have programs that will help you for free. Most often, clients are referred to such programs through charitable organizations, but firms may also contact people directly. If you have acquaintances at the law firm (or acquaintances of acquaintances), you can find out about the availability of such programs. If the lawyer is not familiar with the case issues of your topic, he or she will likely partner with one of the nonprofit organizations that will oversee his or her work. Usually, charitable organizations are happy to partner with volunteer lawyers.

It can often be difficult to find a public defender. Free resources are limited, and there are quite a few people willing to do so. But if you actively search for all kinds of options, you will be able to find a good lawyer.

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