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What types of jobs do lawyers have?

Most lawyers in this country are in private practice, meaning that they do not work for the government. Many lawyers work together with other lawyers in groups known as law firms. These firms provide a range of services with different attorneys specializing in different areas of the law. Many of the larger law firms have multiple offices—often in large cities in the United States and sometimes an office overseas as well.

Some attorneys work for themselves and are called solo practitioners. This means that the lawyer does not officially work for or with any other attorneys, though many attorneys will share office space with other attorneys or may have friendly relationships with other attorneys.

Other attorneys work for the government in a variety of settings—a federal or state agency, a district attorney's office, a defender's office, or some other type of job.

What is a public interest law firm?

A public interest law firm is a private association of attorneys whose principal goal is to assist clients in a particular area of law and advance certain ideological goals rather than to make money. The primary goal of private law firms is to make money practicing law. Public interest law firms usually have a different agenda. There are many public interest law firms that defend civil liberties, advance guns-rights and libertarian points of view, advocate on behalf of religious causes, and defend certain types of cases. Some well known public interest law firms include: National Legal Aid and Defenders Association, Alliance Defense Fund, Legal Services Corporation, American Civil Liberties Union, National Center on Poverty Law, Public Justice, the Rutherford Institute, and the American Center for Law and Justice.

What advantage is it for a person to have representation from a public interest law firm?

The advantage is that often the person has to pay little or no legal fees. The public interest law firms take cases on a pro bono (for free) basis. Given the rising and often high cost of legal services, the value of public interest law firms is immense.

Do private attorneys take cases pro bono?

Pro bono publico ("for the public good") is recommended by the American Bar Association and state bar associations. The ABA recommends that attorneys devote 50 hours a year in pro bono legal services.

Are there limitations on the amount of attorney's fees?

Yes, most states' ethical codes prohibit lawyers from charging exorbitant or unreasonable fees. That begs the question of when is a lawyer's fee unreasonable. The ABA

LegalSpeak: ABA Model Rule 6.1. Voluntary Pro Bono Public Service

Every lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay. A lawyer should aspire to render at least (50) hours of pro bono publico legal services per year. In fulfilling this responsibility, the lawyer should:

(a) provide a substantial majority of the (50) hours of legal services without fee or expectation of fee to:

(1) persons of limited means or

(2) charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental and educational organizations in matters which are designed primarily to address the needs of persons of limited means; and

(b) provide any additional services through:

(1) delivery of legal services at no fee or substantially reduced fee to individuals, groups or organizations seeking to secure or protect civil rights, civil liberties or public rights, or charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental and educational organizations in matters in furtherance of their organizational purposes, where the payment of standard legal fees would significantly deplete the organization's economic resources or would be otherwise inappropriate;

(2) delivery of legal services at a substantially reduced fee to persons of limited means; or

(3) participation in activities for improving the law, the legal system or the legal profession.

In addition, a lawyer should voluntarily contribute financial support to organizations that provide legal services to persons of limited means.

Comment (1): Comment

[1] Every lawyer, regardless of professional prominence or professional workload, has a responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay, and personal involvement in the problems of the disadvantaged can be one of the most rewarding experiences in the life of a lawyer. The American Bar Association urges all lawyers to provide a minimum of 50 hours of pro bono services annually. States, however, may decide to choose a higher or lower number of hours of annual service (which may be expressed as a percentage of a lawyer's professional time) depending upon local needs and local conditions. It is recognized that in some years a lawyer may render greater or fewer hours than the annual standard specified, but during the course of his or her legal career, each lawyer should render on average per year, the number of hours set forth in this Rule. Services can be performed in civil matters or in criminal or quasi-criminal matters for which there is no government obligation to provide funds for legal representation, such as post-conviction death penalty appeal cases.

If you don't have enough money for an attorney, one will be appointed for you (iStock).

If you don't have enough money for an attorney, one will be appointed for you (iStock).

Model Rules of Professional Conduct list numerous factors that should be considered. These factors include the time and labor involved, the customary fee charged for such services in the area and the experience, reputation and ability of the lawyer who charges the fees.

 
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