Home Pro Bono > History


The Shelby County Pro Bono Program is part of the Heartland Pro Bono Program of Central Indiana, and is run by volunteers who contribute their time to provide legal services for those who meet the federal poverty guidelines, and who otherwise could not afford legal services in the Shelby County Civil Courts. To be eligible for pro bono legal assistance, your income and resources must be at or under the federal poverty guidelines used by the program. Funding for this project is provided by the Indiana Bar Foundation. 

To apply for the program, please completely fill out the following form and deliver it to the Administrator of the Shelby County Public Defender’s Office. You will be asked to provide documentary proof regarding your financial status and return that to the Administrator. You will then be advised if you are eligible for the program and, if so, you will be referred to a volunteer attorney and asked to contact the attorney for an appointment. If you do not qualify, you will be informed of that in writing. You may request a complete list of practicing attorneys in Shelby County, which you may use to contact an attorney if you do not qualify for the Pro Bono legal services program.

You have the right at any time to hire an attorney of your own choosing, and you are not required to participate in this program. 

There are certain types of cases which Shelby County Pro Bono Program does not accept for representation. They include any case which will generate income or asset for the client, any criminal cases, small claims cases, bankruptcy cases and certain other types of cases. 

No attorney can or will guarantee specific results in your case. The attorneys who participate in the pro bono program cannot guarantee that you will obtain what you seek to accomplish in your legal case. The volunteer attorneys who take pro bono cases may decline any case, or may withdraw from a case in certain situations. If you are referred to a volunteer attorney, and he/she cannot accept your case for any reason, please contact this office, and your case may be assigned to another volunteer attorney. 

It is important that you notify your volunteer attorney promptly of all changes in your home and work addresses and home, work and cellular phone numbers, and that you cooperate and keep in regular communication and contact with your volunteer attorney. Participation in the Shelby County Pro Bono Program is a privilege, not a right. Participation of an individual in the Program may be terminate at any point, with or without cause, because of, but not limited to, dishonesty, noncooperation and communication problems with the assigned attorney. If you fail to qualify or are denied participation, a notice of denial will be sent to the address provided in your application. You will have 15 days from the date on the letter to pick up your documents or they will be destroyed. 

The attorneys in the Shelby County Pro Bono Program are all volunteers. As such, we request that you be appropriate in your communications with the attorneys and your expectations of them, and that you appear on time for appointments and court dates, and that you call ahead, well in advance, in the event you find you are unable to attend an appointment. 

The Shelby County Pro Bono Program takes a two tiered approach depending upon the financial situation of the applicant. The first tier is completely free and you will not be required to pay legal fees to your volunteer attorney for the time your attorney spends on your case, unless you have a contingency case involving, for example, contract or statutory damages. For those who don’t qualify for the free service but still are within 175% of the federal poverty guidelines, the second tier would qualify you for a reduced rate of pay at an hourly rate of Fifty Dollars ($50.00) per hour for the attorney’s services. In either situation, it is possible, in some cases, like divorce, that your volunteer attorney may request that the Court Order all or part of your voluntary attorney fees to be paid by the other party in your case. Whether or not this occurs, for those in the first tier program, you will still not be required to pay any fees for time your attorney spends on your case. For those in the second tier, you would still be required to pay your attorney at the hourly rate with reimbursement from the other party to you for those costs.

You may be required to pay court costs in your case, and some other types of expenses, if you choose to do certain things in your case. (For example, child custody evaluations, counseling, expert witness fees, medical records fees, etc.) Your volunteer attorney will not be required to pay expenses of the lawsuit for you; however there may be other ways your attorney may be able to arrange to have some kinds of expenses paid through the Heartland Pro Bono program.

Pro Bono mediation may be available in your case, if you qualify, in Shelby County. Please ask your volunteer attorney if you have additional questions regarding these issues.

Each applicant must complete all pages of the application, and sign the attached application in order to be considered for Shelby County Pro Bono Program.