Do lawyers really just help the rich (people who can afford) ?
Good question, James!
A lot of people go to law school because they want to be able to make a difference in the world. However, upon graduating, they are confronted by the reality of needing to pay back their HUGE student loans.They need to make money. When they evaluate a prospective case, that weighs on them. But they will also look at it from the idea that perhaps it is a novel case, or one where they will get a chance to create good precedent. Sometimes, they will take a case pro bono. (for free). They are also expected to do a certain amount of pro bono work each year, and in some states,the state Bar requires that they report these hours.
There are lawyers who work in legal aid clinics, helping the indigent. From my experience, it seems that the poor and rich can get legal help, but the middle class is the one left behind. Of course, it also depends on the "value" of the case. I went through 25 lawyers before finding one who would take my employment law case. He was kind enough to give me a set fee, rather than charge hourly, which is cost prohibitive.
So, yes, I have met some attorneys who still have hearts, and will do the right thing. However, they still need to support their families. YOU can be whatever kind of attorney YOU want to be. Work a few years for a legal aid clinic, or public defenders office, and you will learn a lot. Then start your own practice!
Attorneys who practice in public interest law help poor people instead of wealthy people. I was a staff attorney at a legal services program in Kentucky for 15 years. In order to be eligible for our services, you had to be low-income. I represented clients in civil actions like family, consumer, landlord/tenant, and foreclosure cases. The clients did not have to pay us for our representation. Our program was funded by the Legal Services Corporation, the agency that funds legal services programs in the United States.
Public Defenders also help people who are low income. Public Defenders represent people charged with a crime who cannot afford a private attorney. Public Defenders are a vital part of our criminal justice system and ensure that everyone has adequate representation in criminal court.
After I worked at legal services, I was the attorney for a city human rights commission, where I prosecuted employment, housing, and public accommodation discrimination. This was also a public interest attorney job. Jobs in public interest do not pay as well as huge firms, but the work is extremely rewarding.
What about attorneys who take on cases of immigrants at the border? They have no money
What about those that take on death row appeals? They have no money
I am licensed in Texas and our attorneys contribute time and money for those who cannot afford to have the "Wall Street" attorney
There are some attorneys who turn away people who cannot afford to pay the amounts you have heard of. They are in the minority.
We became attorneys to help people no matter what their financial situation.
You sound like a person who will, upon becoming an attorney, will do the same. Good luck!
I am a practicing attorney in Atlanta, Georgia. Lawyers do not only help the wealthy. There are many organizations that offer legal services to people pro bono--totally free. There are also many small and single-person firms that help people for significantly less than large firms. I personally do far more than the 50 recommended hours of pro bono per year, and have many clients that qualify for lower hourly or flat fees.
I think if you are considering being a lawyer, you should consider (1) what type of law you want to practice, (much more to it than just litigation, criminal and family!), (2) what type of lifestyle you want, and (3) how you will finance your education. Legal education is expensive, which is why many lawyers charge so much--they are trying to pay back student loans. However, if you work hard and are able to qualify for assistance, you may not have to worry about that. If you consider those things as you make your decision, you are well on your way to being whatever type of lawyer you would like.
I am listed as a professional singer and writer, but for over 30 years my day job was being a legal word processor. I've worked with lawyers in contracts, wills and estates, corporate, libel, entertainment, and patents and trademarks.
There are all kinds of lawyers and many, even big firms which can charge $800/hr. or more, dedicate a certain percentage of their lawyers' time to pro bono work. Pro bono stands for "pro bono publico," which means "for the good of the public/people." Usually pro bono cases are the kind you'll hear about on the news, but not always. Smaller cases are sometimes done pro bono. Individual lawyers may decide to take some cases pro bono.
There are also smaller law firms, and firms that specialize in things like environmental, labor, civil rights, and other kinds of specialty law. And if you are looking for a lawyer to work for you, there are many few one- or two-person offices. They cost far less than larger firms. There are also services like Legal Zoom, which can help with things like simple wills and incorporation. Google "low cost legal services." Many of these small firms will also give you advice, sometimes for free. Don't despair if you need low cost or free legal services. There is help out there. I hope this has been helpful. Good luck.
There are a huge variety of legal jobs that help low income people or charitable organizations. Even if you choose to go into private practice, the ethics rules governing the practice of law encourage all lawyers to donate a certain number of hours of work each year to folks who cannot afford to pay much, or anything, for legal services.
Interestingly, the competition for "public service" jobs can be quite high, particularly at very prestigious organizations like the ACLU, Public Counsel, Southern Poverty Law Center, and so on.
Further, even for those lawyers that don't directly support low income clients, there are many of us - myself included - who work for organizations, but whose job it is to make sure those organizations follow the laws and protections enacted by governments for the protection of consumers.
The legal profession has several areas that allow people to obtain an attorney regardless of his/her socioeconomic status. For example, attorneys are paid on a contingency basis in most personal injury cases, which means that the injured worker, or Plaintiff, does not need to pay the attorney directly because the attorney receives a percentage of recovery, if any. Another example is in the criminal justice system. If defendants are unable to afford an attorney, a public defender is appointed to him/her for representation and the public defender is paid by the government. There are also many pro bono organizations/clinics that provide free or low-cost legal representation to those that cannot afford legal services.