Pro Bono Free Legal Aid Lawyers vs. Court Appointed Public Defenders vs. Retained Attorneys
Should I hire/retain a Private attorney or stay with my public defender?
This is often a question that families ask themselves while a son, husband, or boyfriend is in jail. Do we stick with the public defender or court appointed lawyer? Do I get any value from hiring an Oregon or Eugene lawyer? How do I know if I will get my money’s worth?
Many, if not most, Oregon public defenders are criminal defense lawyers of the highest caliber. The Lane County Public Defender and Federal Public defender in Eugene, Oregon, are nationally known as example institutions.
In general, Oregon public defenders are in the local courtrooms everyday and know the players, have established relationships with Oregon district attorneys and judges, and have consistent experience with your type of case.
[Hiring a team is important.]
But is that an advantage or disadvantage? Most of the time that is an advantage. However, sometimes it can hurt a client if a local court appointed lawyer wants to “go along, to get along.” They may be concerned about making the DA mad at the expense of their client. While this is rare, clients and attorneys have reported that they perceive that this happens in certain Oregon counties more than others.
Does my public defender have time for my case?
This tends to be the most realistic concern for clients and families looking for legal counsel for someone in jail. The most frequent complaint our law firm gets about court appointed lawyers and public defenders is that “I never see my lawyer” or “he/she only sends an assistant or investigator.”
This is not because your attorney doesn’t care or isn’t working on your case. It’s because, largely due to Oregon government bias against public defenders, they have many, many cases. When we have clients in jail we visit them or speak to them on the phone often because they are part of the team.
Why won’t my loved one’s court appointed lawyer talk to me about the case?
This is largely because of client confidentiality and time constraints. At Arnold Law, we pride ourselves of working with clients’ families as another part of the team with our client’s permission. They are important historians, advisers, and support mechanisms for our clients. And we would rather update our clients’ ourselves than have the DA listen to a phone call with the client updating the family member on a jail call. We never like to hear that.
Will it make a difference to hire a Eugene attorney?
Typically, you get what you pay for. If you want an attorney constantly working on your case, you need to pay for that. That begs the question: is there value in that?
Our experience is, yes, there is. When a client is falsely accused, turning over every stone will find exculpatory evidence, and that takes time. But you need to find an attorney you trust to bill on your case for something useful and not take advantage of you.
When a client is guilty and facing a life sentence on a sex abuse case, creative legal strategies that can wear down the prosecutor take time. Time and time again our lawyers have taken over cases where the court appointed lawyer has recommended taking a deal.
Then, we take over, and shave years or decades off the recommendation by the previous lawyer. Your results will probably differ but these are war stories that we are proud of. How much would you pay, amortized over 25 years, for more of your loved one’s freedom?
Then of course, there are other cases where we have been involved and in hindsight got nothing better as a result. However, those clients still tell us that at least they know they tried and didn’t leave anything on the table. No one wants a conviction or to be in prison wondering what if they hired an attorney who could have done X, Y and Z. Would that have made a difference?
How do I find a pro bono or free legal Aid lawyer for my civil or family law case?
Typically you can’t. In general you get with you pay for. There are exceptions, as there are dedicated lawyers who have devoted their life to public service at the expense of personal wealth. However, you typically find those lawyers at nonprofit organizations and public defender offices. You may be able to find a sliding scale lawyer for your family law case and several competent lawyers exist in Oregon that do this.
Free Legal Advice and Free Consultations
A lot of people in need of Oregon legal aid are looking for free legal advice. Again, the old adage, “You get what you pay for,” comes to mind. The first step is to start calling family and friends if you have a significant legal need.
Most attorneys do not give free legal advice, since they sell their time for a living. That shocks some people, but most of us haven’t ever gone to get a haircut and asked for a free haircut. And, barbers do not have office and conference room rent, professional liability insurance, bar dues, continuing legal education, and other significant overhead to cover before they even break even.
However, many lawyers give free consultations or at least speak briefly with you on the phone. This is most common in criminal defense cases, personal injury and motor vehicle accidents, bankruptcy, etc.
You can call the Oregon State Bar for a referral or you can still attempt to hire the best that you can afford.
Does your Eugene law firm do pro bono work?
Yes, we do. However, it’s usually something we reach out to do and do not have the capacity to intake the calls requesting free legal work. Our experience is, to say it bluntly, if your family and friends don’t find you or your case a worthy investment, why should we invest our time in a stranger? Exceptions exist, but that’s typically for veterans’ legal issues, true domestic violence victims, crime victims, etc.
For instance, Mike Arnold and his team donated hundreds of hours of free legal work to Marine Corps veteran Gerald Strebendt‘s self-defense shooting case.
Jacy Arnold has represented veterans pro bono who are being taken advantage of in the family law courts.
Mike Arnold represented another veteran (accused of a gun crime) for free who was going through a mental health crisis when the local VA was ignoring him.
And our entire criminal defense team have given free counsel to countless clients of public defenders to keep their attorney and save some money.
Other examples abound, which also include volunteering on boards and for local organizations.
If I hire a lawyer, how will that be different from the court appointed lawyer?
At our Eugene law firm, our attorneys selectively choose to work on client cases. We have an intake legal assistant who’s job it is to make sure the firm and attorney are the right fit for the client and the case. Each week, attorneys give our intake assistant a rating on how many cases are wrapping up in the foreseeable future.
Our goal is to be “just busy enough.” Since we do not typically do flat fees, there is no incentive for our lawyers to take on too many cases. We work the cases we have, resolve them, and then take on new clients.
Fortunately, due to referrals from clients, former opposing parties, and attorneys across Oregon, we typically have a waiting list for family law clients and always have new potential criminal and DUI cases. Our policy is that if we are “too busy” or “busy enough” we refer the case to another law firm. We never take on more than we can handle.
There’s the best lawyer, and there’s best lawyer for you. Hopefully that’s the same person. Contact Arnold Law to see if we are the right fit and can help you with your case. You can fill out the form to the left, call 541-338-9111, or chat live in the box to the bottom right.
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Arnold Law represents clients along the Oregon Coast and throughout Western Oregon, including in Portland, Eugene, Springfield, Salem, Corvallis, Cottage Grove, Albany, Newport, Oregon City, Beaverton, Clackamas, Wilsonville, Tigard, Hillsboro, Lake Oswego, Coburg, Creswell, Florence, Junction City, Lowell, Veneta, Oakridge, Roseburg, Brownsville, Halsey, Harrisburg Klamath Falls, Medford, Ashland, Grants Pass, Glendale, and Bend, and in the following counties: Lane County, Multnomah County, Washington County, Clackamas County, Linn County, Douglas County, Marion County, Coos County, Lincoln County, Benton County, Deschutes County, Josephine County, Klamath County, and Jackson County.