Most liberal democracies consider that it is necessary to provide some level of legal aid to persons otherwise unable to afford legal representation. To fail to do so would deprive such persons of access to the court system. Alternately, they would be at a disadvantage in situations in which the state or a wealthy individual took them to court. This would violate the principles of equality before the law and due process under the rule of law.

A number of delivery models for legal aid have emerged. In a "staff attorney" model, lawyers are employed on salary solely to provide legal assistance to qualifying low-income clients, similar to staff doctors in a public hospital. In a "judicare" model, private lawyers and law firms are paid to handle cases from eligible clients alongside cases from fee-paying clients, much like doctors are paid to handle Medicare patients in the U.S. The "community legal clinic" model comprises non-profit clinics serving a particular community through a broad range of legal services (e.g. representation, education, law reform) and provided by both lawyers and non-lawyers, similar to community health clinics.

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Author's Bio: 

This definition is part of a series that covers the topic of Legal Services. The Official Guide to Legal Services is Richard A. Catalina, Jr., Esq.. Richard A. Catalina, Jr., Esq. (45,372) a registered U.S. Patent Attorney, is the founder and managing attorney of Catalina & Associates, A Professional Corporation, a boutique intellectual property law firm with offices in Princeton and Robbinsville, New Jersey, and New York City, specializing in patent, trademark, copyright, trade secret, licensing, unfair competition and advertising law. The firm serves small to mid size tech and life science companies throughout New Jersey, the metropolitan area, and internationally.

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