When will lawyers answer questions for free? The lawyerly answer is, "It depends."
For example, we here at FindLaw strive to provide free daily analysis of legal questions that confront Americans in their everyday lives. And many of our writers (including yours truly) are attorneys.
But aside from FindLaw, how can you get free answers to your pressing legal inquiries? Here are several instances you can get licensed legal minds to answer your questions, without paying a dime:
- Legal problems eating away at your daily life? Browse FindLaw.com's Lawyer Directory for an attorney who's right for you.
As you probably know from law firm advertisements, many attorneys offer free consultations to prospective clients to answer basic questions about whether they need a lawyer.
Free consultations typically last about 30 minutes to an hour, though each lawyer can set his or her own rules. To make the most of a free consultation, you'll want to bring all pertinent information such as police reports, medical reports, and court documents. You'll also want to jot down a list of questions for your prospective attorney.
Other attorneys may only charge a small fee for a "strategy session," which may then be comped if the client decides to hire that attorney. (Attorneys already have family members, friends, and other acquaintances beating down their door to answer legal questions; they need some assurance that you're going to be in business with them.)
Legal Forums and Legal Resources Online
If you're not quite ready for a face-to-face meeting with an attorney, there are other options you can try.
For example, a number of websites host free discussion boards where attorneys will answer legal questions from consumers. Every day, FindLaw's own Answers community fields a number of difficult legal questions which are then discussed by experienced attorneys from across the nation, free of charge. (You just need to register.)
There are also a number of helpful legal resources for businesses that provide free consulting services as well.
Pro Bono Clinics
Social justice organizations and law schools often pool attorneys and resources in order to offer free legal assistance for at-risk or indigent communities. Depending on your question and financial situation, you may be able to find an attorney to work for you on a pro bono (free) basis.
There are a variety of free legal clinics in every U.S. state and metro area. Head over to FindLaw's State Laws section to find a list of legal clinics near you (click on your state, then your local metro area).
Note, however, that these clinics typically won't field questions from upper-income homeowners with U.S. citizenship -- those who can easily access and afford an attorney.
A Note About Attorneys' Fees...
If you don't qualify for free legal aid and your question is too complex for an online message board, it may be best to just bite the bullet and hire a lawyer. You probably wouldn't expect to spam a doctor or a plumber with questions and expect to get free expert advice on medicine or plumbing, so why expect the same from a lawyer? (P.S. Your plumber is not a good source of medical advice.)
Keep in mind that lawyers work on a variety of flexible fee schedules, so they may be able to answer your questions for very little. Plus, since many lawyers are suffering from massive student loan debt -- like most Americans -- they need to charge something for their services.
So remember, getting your legal questions answered for free is the exception, not the rule. Attorneys are dedicated professionals who are eager to practice their craft, but most reasonably expect to be paid for it.