Updated: Apr 21
Why is difficult to find pro bono lawyers in California?
If you are wondering why it's so hard to find a pro bono lawyer in California, you're not the only one. Chances are, you've been spending a lot of time researching about this subject.
There are some alternatives to find FREE legal representation when you cannot afford to pay for a lawyer in California, however, you must be ready to spend a lot of time and effort to find these legal resources as these are generally not available.
In our article "clients lawyers want to avoid" we discussed how to increase your chances of hiring a great lawyer regardless of your ability to pay for legal fees, here we will discuss specifically about California pro bono lawyers.
So What is a California Pro Bono Lawyer And Why They Are So Hard To Find?
California pro bono lawyers are legal professionals who volunteer to work for free. The keyword here is "VOLUNTEER". Very few California lawyers want to work for free ( or anyone else for that matter, including you dear reader 😉 ), and thus do not work for free. Even fewer GREAT California lawyers are willing to work for free, and thus do not work for free.
That fact alone should answer the question of why California pro bono lawyers are hard to find.
Moreover, there are procedural rules that govern each lawsuit process and it takes time for each step. Even California courts have been designed to streamline the litigation process in a lawsuit. Between depositions and the discovery involved in each case, lawsuits can take several months, in some cases years.
Occasionally volunteering in your community for the holidays in a food drive, animal shelter, a retirement home, a church or the Red Cross is understandable. But who in their right mind wants to work for FREE every single day? No one!
When you ask an attorney for pro bono representation, you're not only asking to for him or her to work for FREE but also their staff. Additionally, there are other costs associated with any legal case such as filing fees, investigator fees, court reports not to mention many other operational day to day expenses.
There's another reason why California pro bono attorneys are very hard to find. Taking on a new client means starting a new working relationship and attorneys don't want to be in a position where their time and effort are not appreciated. In an article by Susan Cartier Liebel "I want to fire my pro bono client, help?" she explains that her pro bono client is disrespectful, abrasive and hard to work with.
Like everything else in life, when people are given something for FREE, they hardly ever appreciate it. Despite Susan's best intentions to help someone in need because she wanted to give back to her community, she found herself stuck in a toxic relationship with someone who wanted everything for nothing (and with an attitude).
Similarly, this is the case of a law student who posted in Reddit "Pro bono clients are driving me mad" explains, people are rude, don't show up to appointments and don't comply with the requirements needed to move their case forward. He only lasted under 4 months of doing pro bono work because he also felt unappreciated no matter how good his intentions were. The reality as he describes, the few non-profits offering pro bono work have a very high turn around rate as most volunteers will quit after a a few weeks.
In other words, your case will be handed down to different attorneys from start to finish. It's logistically and strategically impossible to set out an efficient legal strategy when you need to reset and start from scratch every other month with a new attorney.
When available, pro bono California attorneys will usually offer limited assistance with legal forms or support on very simple transactional cases. California lawyers are very busy people, soliciting any lawyer with pro bono work will most likely result in an immediate rejection. If they do not offer it (on their website or as members of a pro bono organization), don't ask for it! You'll get the same reaction as if you are asking for a $50,000 donation.
And so a lot of people falsely believe that if they need a California lawyer for any case, but cannot pay for one, they nevertheless have the right to having one appointed to them.
FREE California lawyers are only the right of criminals who have been charged with a serious felony such as first degree murder, rape or homicide DUI (hence your Miranda rights) that could potentially result in being locked up in the joint for a few decades.