Money is always an issue for clients. For those who don't have a lot, a defense fund may be a way to deal with the ever-present problem of costs.
Case in point: Accused murderer George Zimmerman, who made headlines this week when The Miami Herald suggested he was "selling autographs" to pay for his defense. Zimmerman's lawyer clarified that the autographs were actually just hand-written thank-you notes.
If you have clients like George Zimmerman who need your services but can't foot the bill, you may also want to consider some unorthodox ways to raise cash. Here are three strategies that may work:
- Appeal to the community. If you're defending someone who's a good person in a bad situation, their community might be willing to pitch in and help. Your client might be a regular church member, participate in local sports teams, or belong to community organizations like the Lions or Rotary Club. Those groups may be willing to help out with legal fees if you or your client can figure out an appropriate way to ask.
- Sell things online. This could be part house-cleaning and part fundraising, or it could be a more creative way to sell things (like your famous client's autograph -- er, signed thank-you notes). Just because the client doesn't have cash on hand doesn't mean there aren't ways to raise cash for his defense, and maybe make a fresh start too. Don't push too hard, but it may be the right suggestion at the right time for your client.
- Make a website for donations. The Internet and social media make it possible for people all over the country, and even the world, to hear about legal cases, possibly including the one you're working on. If the case has taken on a life of its own in the media, then take advantage of that and ask people to donate to a website, as others like Scott Peterson's family have done, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. It doesn't take a lot of time to set one up, and who knows how much help it may bring.
Aside from these tips, a few kind-hearted attorneys may feel compelled to donate their own money to their clients directly. But because that raises concerns about attorney ethics, you may just want to offer your legal services pro bono instead.
With some sort of client defense fund in place, however, you'll be able to worry less about the costs of litigation, and instead worry about how you're going to get paid for your work when all's said and done.
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