A common perception that many in Florida may have about attorneys is that all are incredibly rich due to the high fees that they charge for their services. If you are of limited means, this may deter you from seeking their services (even when you might desperately be in need of them). Yet you have probably heard of cases where attorneys agree to represent clients for free or at a drastically reduced cost (this is commonly referred to as “pro bono” work). Many often come to us here at St. Denis & Davey asking if this is a requirement associated with the legal profession.
There may be instances where you are provided free legal services. These most often occurs in a criminal case where you are assigned a public defender. These are attorneys who are paid by local governments, yet their job is to represent you. This differs from pro bono work in that there is no expectation that you pay a public defender.
The American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct state that every attorney has “a professional responsibility” to provide at least 50 hours of pro bono services each year. These services are expected to be offered to persons of limited means or to organizations whose missions are to further the interests of persons with limited means. Attorneys are also encouraged to offer pro bono services in cases dealing with civil rights and liberties. While this expectation is worded as a responsibility, it is still voluntary. Thus, an attorney does not necessarily have to do pro bono work. However, if you can show that your case aligns with the recommendations made above, your chances of an attorney taking your case pro bono may increase.
More information on the professional standards of attorneys can be found here on our site.