Visit the New Hampshire Bar Association's Referral Projects
The New Hampshire Bar Association has several legal referral projects available for a wide variety of cases. The first website you should visit if you don't know how to find an affordable attorney is: http://nhbar.org/for-the-public.
The New Hampshire Bar Association operates referral programs for full fee paying clients, reduced fee clients (based on income eligibility) and pro bono clients. For those who cannot afford to pay the full fee for an attorney, reduced fee attorneys are available through the New Hampshire Bar's website. The Bar will match you with an attorney in your area who practices the area of law that you need. Reduced fee clients pay $15 to the bar for the referral, receive a free consultation from the attorney, and can receive up to 3 referrals. Fees are generally capped at $60 - $80 per hour.
In order to qualify for pro bono services, you will need to have an annual income at or below 125% of the federal poverty level.
Ask attorneys about sliding scales
A growing number of firms recognize that just because a client's income may disqualify them from receiving reduced fee legal services, that doesn't mean it is any harder for them to afford a full fee. My firm for example, a family law practice, offers a sliding scale fee agreement where clients pay $10 more per hour for each additional $4,000 in annual income. This results in lower fees for mid-level (non-poverty) income earners than would otherwise be available. Do an internet search for "sliding scale fee attorney" to find other attorneys who offer this service.
Look into available legal clinics
There are several legal clinics in New Hampshire for specific types of issues. UNH School of Law offers a bankruptcy clinic for example (available online at http://law.unh.edu/clinicservices/index.php). Eligibility for most clinics is based on income guidelines. Landlord/tenant disputes are another clinic offering. For those outside of New Hampshire, the best way to find local legal clinics is to start with your local law school and the state bar association's website.
Unbundled legal services are increasingly being offered by many small-medium sized firms in New Hampshire, and are being promoted as an alternative method of delivering value to the client among the members of the bar. An "unbundled" service is one in which you the client pay for only the portions of the case that you need help with. An attorney will represent you on a limited basis, say, for helping you draft a parenting plan or a motion. The attorney will not represent you from start to finish, but will help prepare key documents or attend specific hearings. The scope of representation will vary from case to case and attorney to attorney, and you will agree in advance with your attorney what they will and won't do for you.
In routine types of matters, or where the client feels that they can attend some of the hearings or draft some of the documents on their own, this can be an effective way to save money.
Contingent fee agreements
Contingent fee agreements may be an alternative way of reducing the upfront costs of legal representation. However, they are not generally used in a variety of cases, such as criminal and family law. A contingent fee is one that depends on an award of some kind, such as a successful lawsuit or a settlement. As such, they are typically most appropriate in civil lawsuits where a fairly large amount of money is at stake, since the attorney is taking a substantial risk that if the outcome is not favorable, they would not get paid. Nevertheless, if you think you have a case and you're seeking a financial award from the opposing party, then you shouldn't let your present income stop you from seeking an attorney and proposing a contingent (rather than hourly) fee agreement.
Additional resources provided by the author
Visit the NH Bar Association's website at www.nhbar.org.
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