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Should I Use Crowdfunding to Pay for My Attorney?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on June 22, 2015 4:03 PM

Attorneys can be expensive, and often the better the attorney, the higher the cost. So what can you do if you can't afford an attorney?

Just like most other 21st Century problems, this one can be solved with the internet. Over the last five years, crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe have contributed to a $5.1 billion worldwide industry. But does that make it a good place to turn to when you need a lawyer?

Go Lawyer Me

In criminal cases, the state is required to provide counsel if you can't afford it. But in civil cases, like custody battles and probate matters, people are on their won when it comes to getting a lawyer.

Enter GoFundMe, a site that has hosted myriad crowdfunding campaigns from Nepal earthquake relief efforts and cancer patient medical expenses to raising money for Darren Wilson. At the time of this writing, there are 2,392 campaigns with the word "attorney" in them. There are parents trying to raise money for divorce and custody attorneys, and children trying to raise money to fund funeral and probate expenses for their deceased parents.

But just because the site allows you to open a campaign for attorneys' fees, is that the best route?

Where's the Money?

The success rate for crowdfunding campaigns varies. While some funds have raised thousands of dollars, others have only garnered a couple hundred. So while it isn't illegal to use crowdfunding websites to pay for an attorney, it may not be as effective as you hoped.

If your GoFundMe efforts don't work, or you're wary or raising money from strangers online, there are other options for obtaining free legal aid. Your local courts may have a "Self-Help" center, most law schools have a clinic for students to provide help to low-income people, and some attorneys will answer questions for free, represent you on a contingency fee basis, or offer pro bono services.

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