ABOUT PRO BONO REPRESENTATION
Many lawyers in Vermont provide pro bono representation—they represent a client without charge if that person cannot afford to hire an attorney. “Pro bono” is short for pro bono publico, a Latin phrase meaning “for the public good”. Lawyers who provide pro bono legal service perform important work in our democracy when they help citizens obtain justice in our courts and government agencies.
Sometimes pro bono representation is arranged directly between the client and lawyer. More often, clients are matched with a pro bono attorney through a program like the Vermont Volunteer Lawyer Project.
Finding Legal Help through 1-800-889-2047
To find out if you qualify for a pro bono attorney, call 1-800-889-2047. This is the statewide number for Vermont Legal Aid, and serves as the gateway to a number of free legal programs. The phone will be answered by an intake screener who will ask you for some personal information: where you live, your phone number, your income and assets, and your legal problem.
If you have few assets and your family income is at or below 125% of the federal poverty level, you will qualify for free legal advice. You may also qualify if you are disabled, a senior citizen, or a victim of Tropical Storm Irene.
If you are eligible for free legal advice, you will be referred to:
--an office of Vermont Legal Aid close to you, where a VLA staff attorney will help you;
--Legal Services Law Line of Vermont, where you will receive over-the-phone help from a staff attorney (but not in-court representation);
--Vermont Volunteer Lawyer Project, where your case may be placed with a private attorney who will represent you in person without charge;
--a related legal project or non-profit organization which can help you with your special legal need.
Not all people who qualify for a pro bono attorney will be represented by one—there just aren’t enough lawyers in Vermont to meet the legal need of lower income residents. But every effort will be made to provide you with some legal advice.
Finding Legal Help in Your Area
Y ou can view a list of legal services organizations and projects around Vermont by clicking HERE, or by viewing the drop-down tab “Pro bono and low bono Legal services” on this webpage. Scan the chart for help in your area of the state or for your legal issue. You may notice that in some Vermont counties there are “low” bono legal projects. These projects use grant money to pay private lawyers a small amount of money to represent low income clients at no cost to the client.
You can also call Vermont 2-1-1, a statewide help directory which will put you in touch with legal services near you.