How to Find a Free Asylum Attorney

If you want to hire a lawyer to help you with your asylum case, you’ll find that attorney fees are all over the map. Some lawyers charge tens of thousands of dollars for a case. The larger immigration firms typically charge in the five to ten thousand dollar range. “Low bono” lawyers–and I include myself in this group–charge a few thousand dollars for an asylum case.

Remember, when you use a pro bono attorney instead of hiring me, you are taking food from the mouths of my children.
Remember, when you use a pro bono attorney instead of hiring me, you are taking food from the mouths of my children.

But what if you do not have any money for a lawyer, and even a “low bono” fee is too much? The options then are to do the case yourself (usually not a great idea) or to find a pro bono attorney.

Pro bono (short for “pro bono publico”) is a Latin phrase meaning “for the public good.” In the legal context, it basically means that the lawyer does the work without charging the client any money.

There are different types of pro bono attorneys. The major categories are lawyers who work for charities, attorneys who work for law school clinics, and private attorneys who volunteer their time. There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of pro bono attorney, and strategies for finding an attorney in each category are a bit different.

I suspect that most asylum seekers who find a pro bono attorney do so through a charitable organization. You can find a fairly comprehensive list of such organizations on the Executive Office for Immigration Review website (EOIR is the government agency that administers the nation’s Immigration Courts). The list is organized by state, which is helpful. If you do not see your location, click on a nearby state and you should find charities that serve your area. The American Immigration Lawyer’s Association (an association of private and non-profit attorneys) maintains a similar, and probably more comprehensive, list. Many of the organizations on these lists are free. Some charge a nominal fee (though in certain instances, I have heard about “nominal fees” ranging into the thousands of dollars, but this is the exception, not the norm). Also, most such organizations will not take a case where they believe the asylum seeker has the ability to pay for a lawyer.

The main disadvantage of using a charitable organization is that they are very busy, and they may not have the capacity to take your case. Also, if you need your case done in a hurry, they may not be able to accommodate you. Indeed, the reason lawyers like me exist is because the charitable organizations do not have the resources to help everyone. If you are able to obtain representation from a charity, they will either do the case in-house, or they will find you a volunteer attorney who will work under their supervision. Many of these volunteer attorneys do not specialize in asylum. However, the non-profits are adept at training and supervising their volunteer lawyers, and in most cases, you will get excellent representation.

So how do you get one of these charities to take your case? It often is not easy, and you may need to call/email/visit a number of organizations before you find one that can help you. But if you are persistent, you may be able to obtain representation. If one organization cannot help you, ask whether they can recommend another to try. It can feel like a full-time job to find a pro bono lawyer, but those applicants who make the effort are often able to obtain representation.

Another type of pro bono representation is the legal clinic. Many law schools have clinical programs where a law professor supervises law students in real-life cases. The students do the actual work on the case. I do not know of a comprehensive, updated list of law school immigration clinics, but this list (in Excel) from the Law Professors Blog Network should get you started. Also, you might try Googling “Law School Immigration Clinic” + the name of your city. Again, these clinics receive many requests for assistance and they have limited capacity, so it is often difficult to get one to represent you.

If you are represented by a law school clinic, you will work mostly with the students–after all, the primary purpose of the clinic is to provide a learning experience for the students. The obvious question is whether law students have the ability to adequately represent asylum applicants in court or in the asylum office. My observation is that, what the students lack in experience, they make up for in enthusiasm and energy. Also, the supervision at clinics (at least the ones I have seen) tends to be excellent. I do not know of any studies on this, but I expect that the success rate of clinical students is comparable to the success rate of practicing attorneys. One issue for clinics is that their cases must be scheduled according to the academic calendar, which can sometimes cause additional delays (though sometimes, it can make things faster instead).

Finally, many law firms have pro bono programs where the firm will represent individuals free of charge. Most firms get their pro bono clients from charitable organizations, but they can take on individual cases directly. If you know someone at a law firm (or if you know someone who knows someone), you might want to ask about this. If the attorney is not familiar with asylum law, she can likely partner with a non-profit organization, which will supervise her (the non-profits usually love to get new volunteer attorneys and are happy to help).

In truth, it is often difficult to find pro bono representation. Resources are stretched thin. But if you persevere, it is possible to find a free attorney. And having an attorney can make a big difference in the outcome of your case.

Related Post

146 comments

  1. […] If you are without an attorney and you need help with your case, there may be pro bono (free) assistance available. I wrote about that here.  […]

    Reply
  2. […] For those who cannot afford legal help, securing pro bono (free) assistance is important (though finding pro bono help is often not […]

    Reply
  3. Hi Jason,
    I was referred to Immigration Court at Dallas, TX. My friend’s attorney inquired about me at the courthouse and he found a search arrest about me. He can’t look at the details of the case because the case has confidentiality. It has no way to get official documents to present at the Immigration Court. I didn’t know about the search arrest when I was interviewing with Asylum Officer. I will present first time in the Immigration Court.

    I have the screenshots of conversations with the attorney. Is it acceptable for the Immigration Court?
    Kind regards,

    Reply
    • You can submit anything you want at immigration court. The screenshot is better than nothing, but you might see what else you can get about this. A letter from the friend or the friend’s lawyer? Proof that the lawyer is really a lawyer (maybe the lawyer’s license or business card)? An explanation from one of them about why they can’t get more info? The more you can get, the stronger this piece of evidence will be. Take care, Jason

      Reply
  4. i’m farzad 32 years old from iran
    i got hiv 1 years ago when i lived in thailand(more than 3 years i lived in thailand)i just make mistakes for trust my friend and i got it ,i dont know from where i got it (i got from my friend or i got it from hospital when i had an accident)but i suspected to my friend because after i got it,,my friend change room and run away
    i went to hiv clinic but they dont care me because i’m a foreigner then i go to private hospital but there is very expensive and i cannot pay,on that time i thought i will die soon so i back to my country for visit my family for last time and tell them i love you
    from when i detected i’m a positive hiv i lost my job,all my friends,a lot of money,happy life.and forget laughing for ever…and just crying everyday all the time
    i decided to kill my self but i’m a timorous ( my family very old they cannot accept it) so i start ARV in my country but i cannot live in my country because i’m a LGBT,people judge me and they scare from who are an hiv positive ,i’m very lonely now and a lot of another reason
    i dont have much money less than 300$ everymonth
    now i dont want to make my family sad with killing my self
    i send messege to many people many hospital many another government but 99% dont reply me and 1% told me we are sorry for you
    i want go to other country and get asylum,and i dont care where ,,,i want have a quiet life
    i have Bachelor of Industrial Management(1 year experience)
    also i can fix computer and all kind of internet(more than 10 years experience)
    have international driver license for car and motorbike
    i can work about any job ,i still have power and i can learn easy
    anybody can help me where can i go and find some job there also and have little life there?or tell me where can help me?
    please help me i’m broken…
    sorry for long letter and disturbing
    thank you

    from Sentenced to death

    Reply
    • To seek asylum in the US, you would need to somehow get here first. You might have a case, given that you are HIV+ and an LBGT person. You might also be able to win asylum in other Western countries if you can get to them. It does sound like you might be able to pursue a job overseas somewhere; maybe in a place that can also offer you treatment. I think it is worth a try to see what you can find. Good luck, Jason

      Reply
  5. Hello,
    this is Abubaker and I’m 17 years old im living in los angeles CA and i want to apply for asylum and i have already fillep up i-589 form but i am disappointed about my form that if i filled it up right or wrong.
    it will be ur pleasure to help me.

    Thank you

    Reply
    • If you wanted to hire me, you could email me to arrange a consultation – jdzubow@dzubowlaw.com. However, you might do better to find a local lawyer to help you. The article above has some links that might get you started. Take care, Jason

      Reply
  6. Hi, how can i find out if my 180days clock has stopped because my case was recently transferred due to address change?

    Reply
    • If the case is at the asylum office, the clock should not stop. Maybe you can contact the asylum office to ask, though I am not sure they will give you this info. You can find their contact info if you follow the link at right called Asylum Office Locator. If the case is in court, you can call 800-898-7180, enter your Alien number, and then press 2. The computer will tell you how many days have elapsed on the clock. Take care, Jason

      Reply
  7. Thank you

    Reply
  8. Salam dear respectable sir
    my name is azhar saleem and I belong to Pakistan , one years ago turky had illegally com I came her for good future , and began working in Istanbul , I found the unhcr office . and I went 27_11_2017 to Ankara office . he gave me a paper the date of 21_08_2020 interview was written on it , and said go duzce provincial immigration authority office , do the entry and stay there and work there .I want to get Turkish citizenship i have pakistani ID card and passport can you help me anyway is it a solution , I am very tensed . I will give you the fee you have , I will wait for your answer
    Thank you soO much
    Azhar Saleem ,

    Reply
    • I am in the US and do not know about Turkey. You should talk to a lawyer there for help. Take care, Jason

      Reply
  9. hi,I just need notifications by email

    Reply
  10. Hello Jason, your website is really full of valuable infos. I’m very disappointed that I found your website a bit late…..
    I’m really disappointed on my lawyer for so many reasons, mostly you have listed above. I want to change a lawyer. I have filled for asylum on March 2016 and never been called for interview. what steps should I do to change a lawyer? Thank you very much !!

    Reply
    • All you have to do is find a lawyer that you want to use – The new lawyer can enter his/her appearance and the old lawyer will be removed from the case. Take care, Jason

      Reply
  11. You are doing an amazing job!
    Thanks for all what you doing!

    Reply
  12. Hello Jason, Where can I find a list of lawyers who are licensed in new York. Thank you in advance

    Reply
    • Maybe you can Google “New York bar association” or “New York barred attorneys,” but I am not sure, as the rules in NY are different than here, but that might be a place to start. Take care, Jason

      Reply

Write a comment