Programs to help indigent clients in civil cases


A person may have the right to have an attorney provided to them at no cost to represent them in a criminal case if they are indigent. However, in a civil case, Volunteer Attorneys for Rural Nevadans, through its Pro Bono Project, and Nevada Legal Services match qualified low-income individuals with attorneys that do not charge for their legal services to advise and represent them in various civil matters.

VARN and NLS coordinate pro bono attorneys to work with clients in resolving civil legal matters only. The types of eligible cases include but are not limited to family law matters such as adoption, divorce, or guardianship; real estate matters including evictions or landlord and tenant issues; elder law matters including wills and probate, Medicare, or nursing home issues, and many more.

Pro bono assistance is available to low-income individuals and families that meet income guidelines and generally are not financially able to afford an attorney. VARN does, however, waive these income qualifications for its Domestic Violence Victim’s Assistance Project. Qualified clients will not be charged for pro bono attorney fees, but they will be responsible for ancillary expenses such as court costs, notary public fees, postage, or any other out-of-pocket expenses incurred on the client’s behalf.

Financial consideration is the only difference in the relationships between a client who has engaged a pro bono attorney and a client who has retained an attorney-for-hire; all other aspects of the relationships are the same. The client can expect the exact degree of service from the pro bono attorney which that attorney renders to paying clients, including competent and diligent representation, being kept informed about the case timely and being consulted regularly, and the client’s confidentiality being respected.

In return, the attorney expects the client to be thorough and honest in presenting information and facts, timely in responding to inquiries or requests for documents, and respectful of the court, the judicial process, and the attorney’s time and place of business.

Unlike in an established attorney-client relationship, when an attendee and attorney meet during a legal clinic, no attorney-client relationship is established, and the appointment is limited to providing brief legal advice. Typically, the appointment is limited in time. Therefore, for attendees to be able to effectively communicate the case and for the attorney to provide beneficial legal advice, it is imperative that attendees thoroughly prepare before attending the clinics. The attendee should know his or her case. The more time the attorney spends reviewing documents to develop a general idea of the case, the less time is available for the attorney to advise the attendee on the case itself. Therefore, it is important that the attendee be able to outline the chronology of the case, is familiar with the filed documents, and is able to explain the main issues of the case. Furthermore, the attendee should bring to the appointment, in an organized manner, any and all documents filed or issued in the case. Additionally, prior to the appointment, the attendee should write down any and all questions and concerns they would like addressed by the attorney. Finally, to benefit the most from an appointment regarding legal forms, the attendee should have all the known personal information filled out prior to the appointment.

More information on VARN’s Pro Bono Project and Lawyer in the Lobby services and how to determine eligibility is available online at or by calling 775-883-8278.

To learn more about services provided by NLS and one’s eligibility, contact NLS online at or by calling 775-883-0404.

Natalia Vander Laan is a Minden attorney.


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