Assuming this is not a case where an attorney is prohibited from asking for fees by law (for example, this may be the case in a workers' compensation matter), there is nothing improper about your attorney asking for you to contribute to your case.
What type of case is it? What does your retainer agreement say?
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No. You would have to stumble upon one of those fly-by-night sliding scale law offices. There is no public or private fund to pay for litigation.
As a side note, the retainer should specify who is responsible for paying disbursements (expenses). Sometimes, if a lawyer believes the case has gone irretrievably south and surely cannot be won at trial, and there will be experts to pay, among other expenses (which cannot be recouped if the case is lost, and can run into the tens of thousands), the lawyer will strongly suggest settling. I f the client is adamant about not settling, depending upon what the retainer says, the lawyer may ask the client to throw his own money away at trial. Most PI retainers will permit this scenario.
I am a co-author of WEITZ ON AUTOMOBILE LITIGATION: THE NO FAULT HANDBOOK. The opinions expressed in this answer are not legal advice. These opinions are based on New York practice. We have no attorney-client relationship. conducting a conversation with me through the avvo comments section does not create an attorney-client relationship. I may be contacted at 212-553-9300.
A lawyer may, but is not compelled to advance costs and disbursements. If, for example, an attorney is bein asked to,pay/advance money for a medical expert who charges a significant fee to testify, a lawyer may ask the client for the fee or the fee can be borrowed from someone else, such as a family member, friend or a bank. Certain businesses to provide loans to litigants in ongoing cases as well. They can be reputable, but check them out carefully.