A person seeking the best pro bono bankruptcy lawyer should first perform some general research on bankruptcy law. This will allow him to gain a better understanding of the bankruptcy process and help him ask informed questions during the initial meeting with a potential lawyer. Second, he should obtain referrals to several bankruptcy law attorneys and schedule a meeting with at least three of them. Finally, prepare for the meeting by compiling paperwork such as tax forms and bills and by writing down key questions to ask the attorney to better assess the lawyer.
Attorneys are encouraged to provide some pro bono legal services, and some state bar associations require a certain number of pro bono hours annually, but those hours — if required — are limited. Attorneys generally perform pro bono work when they believe in a particular case, want to help a non-profit organization or someone of low income, or because they like a particular client. In bankruptcy cases, a person's lack of income is usually irrelevant because a bankruptcy attorney is helping a person eliminate debt, which will free up any income for other purposes, including legal fees. A bankruptcy attorney might agree to take a pro bono case if a person has absolutely no income. Those who do will likely have to pay for bankruptcy services, unless he can convince a bankruptcy lawyer to do the work free.
Performing general research in the area of bankruptcy law prior to choosing a pro bono bankruptcy lawyer is an important step. It allows a person to ask a lawyer better questions during the initial meeting. This makes the meeting more productive for the client than simply rambling to the lawyer about a predicament. Preparing for the meeting also shows the lawyer that a person is not going to waste his time. This may also help persuade the lawyer to accept a pro bono case.
When seeking referrals for a pro bono bankruptcy lawyer, a person can start by asking trusted family members and friends for referrals. The state bar association is another source of possible referrals and might be able to tell a person whether a particular law firm provides free bankruptcy legal services. A state bar cannot tell a person whether a particular attorney is the best pro bono bankruptcy lawyer, because its referrals are neutral. It can, however, tell you whether complaints have been filed about a particular attorney. Some communities also have organizations that provide need-based pro bono legal services for those who qualify.
After collecting several names, a person should schedule meetings with at least three lawyers; most provide a free initial consultation. A person can ask when arranging an interview whether pro bono representation is a possibility. Asking up front avoids wasting time with an interview, if the attorney is unwilling. Alternately, a person can wait to raise the pro bono question during the interview. This allows him to meet with the lawyer, ask questions about his case and about bankruptcy, and try to convince the lawyer to accept the case on a pro bono basis.