Last year, worth $1 million legal services was donated by the state’s lawyers to the poor people of New Hampshire where in fact the attorneys should be receiving an average of $100 per hour. The New Hampshire Bar Association’s deputy director of pro bono lawyer referral admitted that this is the only class of professionals who wholeheartedly donated their time and effort for free. But according to the lawyers, this isn’t enough.
Pro bono publico is the original term of pro bono which came from the Latin language meaning “public good”. The pro bono system is extended by the New Hampshire Legal Assistance and yet, around 80 percent of the poor lacks legal support. The 20 percent of the cases are the ones that attorneys prioritize.
The defendant has a right to a lawyer wherein the state is must provide the person an attorney if that person cannot afford one. That is done through county public defender programs. If for instance, a poor person is faced with eviction or has been denied from state benefits, then that’s the time that he or she can be qualified for the New Hampshire Legal Assistance.
In order to get help from either the Legal Assistance or the pro bono program, one has to be equally poor. If a person is earning above 125 percent of the poverty level income, then he or she cannot benefit from the free legal services, according to the federal guidelines. If you’re single, then you need to have an income of $8,513 or if you belong to a family of four, the income should be $17,438.
Usually, it’s the working poor who get the minimal benefits in most institutional programs. Once a person is having a difficult time meeting his or her legal needs even through the reduced fee program where lawyers offer their services at a discounted rate, then that’s the time that one has to avail of the pro bono system. For those who weren’t able to avail for legal aid, rates can increase soon and which would bring about more trouble, especially in cases of child support. What the state can do is to ask support for these people but they can’t because they are definitely understaffed.
Hiring a good lawyer for child support is possible only if you have the means to do it. Support money can make the difference between keeping food on the table or permitting a single parent to take a job and get off public assistance. For the low income people who really want to get a divorce, they can’t do it because lawyers are not affordable. Instead, they just move apart and if children are involved, there may be no support order at all because no court was involved.
New Hampshire is different because it doesn’t provide any legal services to the poor. Legal Assistance is then funded by the Income on Lawyers Trust Accounts program and by the federal Legal Services Corp. The state bar association ensures a client’s safety in opening a bank account by holding money in escrow in a lawyer’s own trust account for a period of time.
To be able to motivate lawyers and law firms to contribute, honor roll pro bono services are given out by the bar association monthly. It is just a sad fact that some lawyers show up and some don’t. To attract more lawyers to help the poor, the association annually awards the lawyer who selflessly devoted his or her service to the poor.