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How can I find a pro bono lawyer for a difficult divorce case?

Gainesville, GA |

I have been married for 3 years and seperated for 2. I live in Gainesville Georgia and she lives in Chicago Illinois which is where we were married. We have 2 children together. We have no property, we have no debt. We are in agreement with custody and visitation and I'm not fighting child support or anything like that. Sounds simple enough. Until you factor in that I have a medical malpractice/wrongful death lawsuit worth millions of dollars for my fathers death in a surgery gone wrong that she is going after. The lawsuit was filed before we were married and won't be finished til after we're divorced but she still wants 28% of it. We are getting divorced because she had an affair less than a year after we were married. Is her character not in question here? What can I do? Please help

Attorney Answers 6


  1. Best answer

    Your father's malpractice case should be a separate property asset like inheritance and beneficiary designations and not caught by a divorce action.


  2. Many attorneys will offer free initial consultations. Some will offer payment plans, or lower rates for clients of modest incomes. But handling an entire case pro bono is another matter entirely. This is an issue that comes up a lot on this site, and this is what I tell people:

    Pro bono work is an important part of the legal tradition. I should know that if anyone does: I served on the Oregon State Bar's Pro Bono committee for three years, and was its chairman in 2011. I have handled quite a few pro bono cases, including one ongoing case of great complexity. So I don't mean to discourage people from seeking out such help, and I certainly don't mean to discourage lawyers from providing it. That said:

    People often have very unrealistic expectations for pro bono cases. They seem to think that if they've been injured or are in need, they're entitled not only to complete redress, but also to free help getting it. It is almost never true. For one thing, pro bono work is usually for cases with larger social implications, beyond the immediate effect on the client.

    For another, even pro bono cases are likely to cost the client at least a little bit of money. This is because litigation has considerable expenses that have nothing to do with paying your lawyer. There are costs for postage, copying huge numbers of documents, hiring court reporters and investigators. There are filing fees and other court costs. There are often expert witnesses and other professionals (who generally do not have a pro bono tradition, and don't work for free). Legal rules may prohibit attorneys from paying these costs unless they have a reasonable expectation that they'll be reimbursed. So even pro bono clients will need to advance some money up front.

    And there's another reason an attorney might want a client to do this: In my experience, people don't value what they don't pay for. A lawyer can put a lot of work into a case, but if they're working all for free, the client may get fed up or frustrated when things don't go their way, and quit, or fail to appear for court, or stop following the lawyer's advice. This wastes all the lawyer's work and can make them look like an idiot before the Court. I am speaking from considerable personal experience. Litigation is very slow and time-consuming and rarely works out perfectly, and you may be free to walk away at any time without an investment, but your lawyer is not. Our ethics rules require us to meet certain conditions before we withdraw. If you aren't committed to it, you can subject us to a ton of trouble.

    It also bears mention that lawyers don't have as much money as you might think. The typical law school graduate today has about $80,000 to $120,000 in student loan debt. Lawyers have to pay Bar license fees, extremely expensive malpractice insurance premiums, and CLE (ongoing education) costs. Lawyers are not near the bottom - we are THE bottom, dead last, in terms of available jobs for professionals. Only 50% of law school graduates can find jobs within the first two years after graduating. So salaries are dropping for firms, and many self-employed solo practitioners (like myself) make less than minimum wage. So we often get a bit vexed, at being asked to work for free all the time.

    You should feel free to ask around. But bear these issues in mind when you ask. You probably wouldn't want to do your own job for free, however urgently someone needed it done.

    Please read the following notice: <br> <br> Jay Bodzin is licensed to practice law in the State of Oregon and the Federal District of Oregon, and cannot give advice about the laws of other jurisdictions. All comments on this site are intended for informational purposes only, and do not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. No posts or comments on this site are in any way confidential. Each case is unique. You are advised to have counsel at all stages of any legal proceeding, and to speak with your own lawyer in private to get advice about your specific situation. <br> <br> Jay Bodzin, Northwest Law Office, 2075 SW First Avenue, Suite 2J, Portland, OR 97201 | Telephone: 503-227-0965 | Facsimile: 503-345-0926 | Email: jay@northwestlawoffice.com | Online: www.northwestlawoffice.com


  3. Wonderful answer from Attorney Bodzin!!

    Attorney Inga Stevens is licensed in Maine. She provides general information on Avvo.com. No attorney-client relationship arises out of the information given here.


  4. Mr. Bodzin's answer is excellent. While his experience vastly exceeds mine, it is similar. I have done some pro bono work for an established prisoner's rights organization, but even there, the organization's resources to oversee my work and collaborate with private counsel is limited, and they take cases only where they have broader precidential value to a lot of affected inmates or are the most serious civil rights violations.

    In my private practice, I sometimes take pro bono for a RELATIVELY SIMPLE (NOT "difficult") child custody case, but even then, am mindful of the "karmic exchange". It's a sad fact about humans that they do not value what's given for them for free, and often turn out to be ungrateful, demanding clients. Everybody can contribute something: I've asked my current pro bono to bake cookies which she is going to donate to a soup kitchen in exchange for my free services.

    A good example of the ungrateful nature of people on Avvo who ask for free advice and then are ungrateful and unappreciative when they aren't helped enough can be seen in the follow up comments on this recent thread here: http://bit.ly/16K9Zg5 . You can draw your own conclusions over who is the bigger jerk, me or "Anonymous" from North Carolina.

    This answer is provided under the Avvo.com “Terms and Conditions of Use” (“ToU”), particularly ¶9 which states that any information provided is not intended as legal advice or to create an attorney-client relationship between you and me or any other attorney. Such information is intended for general informational purposes only and should be used only as a starting point for addressing your legal issues. In particular, my answers and those of others are not a substitute for an in-person or telephone consultation with an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction about your specific legal issue, and you should not rely solely upon Legal Information you obtain from this website or other resources which may be linked to an answer for informational purposes. You understand that questions and answers or other postings to the Site are not confidential and are not subject to attorney-client privilege. The full Avvo ToU are set forth at http://www.avvo.com/support/terms . In addition, while similar legal principles often apply in many states, I am only licensed to practice in the State of New York and Federal Courts. Any general information I provide about non-New York laws should be checked with an attorney licensed to practice in your State. Lastly, New York State Court rules (22 NYCRR Part 1200, Rule 7.1) also require me to inform you that my answers and attorney profile posted on the Avvo.com site may be considered "attorney advertising" and that "prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome".


  5. I do extensive pro bono work, and am proud to assist those in need. However, if you have a wrongful death case "worth millions" you are not going to remotely qualify for pro bono help.

    Speak to your wrongful death lawyer about litigation funding companies, who will loan you money against your expected settlement. The amount of money that plaintiffs receive through legal financing varies widely, but often is around 10 to 15 percent of the expected value of judgment or settlement of their personal injury lawsuit. Some companies allow individuals to request more or less money (as needed) and have varying payout rates depending on the characteristics of the case at hand.

    Litigation funding is generally not considered a loan, but rather as a form of nonrecourse debt. The debt does not have to be repaid if the plaintiff's law suit is unsuccessful. In addition, litigants generally do not have to pay monthly fees in obtaining legal financing. Instead, there are no payments of any kind until the case settles or judgment is obtained, which could be months or years away.

    I hope this helps, and that you now realize you have the resources to get a top divorce lawyer.

    If you find this answer helpful, please mark it here on AVVO as helpful. In answering you, I am attempting to communicate general legal information and am not representing you (and am not your lawyer). Do feel free to call me at 404-768-3509 if you wish to discuss actual representation (the phone call also does not retain counsel; that requires an office visit and appropriate paperwork). In that a forum such as this provides me with limited details and doesn't allow me to review details and documents, it is possible that answers here, while meant to be helpful, may in some cases not be complete or accurate, and I highly recommend that you retain legal counsel rather than rely on the answers here. (You can also email my office at geaatl@msn.com . An email also does not retain my office, but can help you get an appointment set if you prefer not to call). I am happy to discuss possible representation with you. Any information in this communication is for discussion purposes only, and is not offered as legal advice. There is no right to rely on the information contained in this communication and no attorney-client relationship is formed. Nothing in my answer should be considered as tax-advice. To ensure compliance with IRS Circular 230, any U.S. federal tax advice provided in this communication is not intended or written to be used, and it cannot be used by the recipient or any other taxpayer (i) for the purpose of avoiding tax penalties that may be imposed on the recipient or any other taxpayer, or (ii) in promoting, marketing or recommending to another party a partnership or other entity, investment plan, arrangement or other transaction addressed herein. I am also required to advise you, if your question concerns bankruptcy, that the U.S. Congress has designated Ashman Law Office as a debt relief agency that can help people file bankruptcy.


  6. I woudl contact the Gainesville office of Georgia Legal Services Program at 1-800-745-5717. If you are income eligible then you may be provided an attorney for your divorce action. It is probably better for you to retain an attorney from Hall County or an adjoining county who is more familar with the judges in Hall County.

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