The short answer is yes. Residents of rural areas of the United States have always had trouble finding pro bono legal services. The reason is simple and easy enough to understand. Lawyers who offer pro bono services are usually doing so for a combination of reasons. Sure, they want to help out those in need…but they also want everyone else to find out about how they helped someone in need. There’s an unspoken quid pro quo involved in this “free” transaction.
And it never hurts to spread the word in big cities either.
DC personal injury attorneys represent victims of accidents that were someone else’s fault. These might occur due to another person’s negligence, they might occur because someone purposely hurt another person, or they might occur simply because an accident occurred because of a mistake. Pro bono attorneys usually help those who need it the most — including the financially exigent.
Does that mean living in a rural area completely bars you from receiving pro bono help? No, not at all. What it does mean is that you might have to travel farther to benefit from it. And even then, the amount of legal aid you receive might depend on your pro bono lawyer’s ability or desire to travel — if indeed you require them to travel.
For example, in Washington DC there are several potential paths to pro bono legal help. One is the American Association of Retired Persons Legal Counsel For The Elderly Volunteer Lawyers Project. The other is the DC Bar Pro Bono Program. Both are designed to connect pro bono lawyers to clients who need legal help but likely cannot pay for it.
The latter group provides services for lawyers who would like to donate some of their time for pro bono work as well. For example, it hosts training sessions where counselors will learn how to approach and win these cases for their new clients. The group also helps provide pro bono legal help to nonprofits and small businesses — especially those run by immigrants, people of color, other minorities, and women.
Why are these groups only available inside the city? Primarily because that’s where the resources are located. Lawyers have an easier time meeting and networking with other lawyers when they live in a compact area where people are always in need of help. In smaller towns and rural areas, there is more competition — and it makes it harder to get a leg in the game.
However, we do feel the need to say that while there is a place for pro bono lawyers in rural communities, those with the time and money to spare are usually already set up for success. Those whose offices exist in rural areas probably already knew that their client base would be small, which means the extra services they can offer would always be limited. But hey — it never hurts to ask if a lawyer you like will offer you their services pro bono no matter where you live.