Finding a lawyer to help you out in this situation should cost no where near $20k. I am not sure if that is a rate you were given by an attorney, or were told word of mouth that this is the going rate. However, a simple consultation regarding an idea that you have will be significantly lower than that.
As far as pro-bono work in this area, I am not entirely sure about any avenues that you could seek. Typically, firms will have pro bono departments that will take on cases based on the client’s needs usually falling below some level. I am not sure of your particular situation, but you would most likely have to look into relevant pro bono departments in your area.
That being said, I am certain you can get a quick, easy and inexpensive answer to your legal questions on our site. Our legal platform makes it super easy for you to connect with an experienced attorney at an affordable rate. Also, you can directly connect with our attorneys 24/7 and forward your questions directly. This way, you do not need to waste your time or your money, and get the answers you are looking for.
The high cost you were probably referring to regards the fees associated with filing the actual patent. If so, this still should not cost that much money. Filing a patent is a standard legal procedure, so the rates should not fluctuate drastically between practitioners, and should not cost you $20k.
From the way it sounds, your legal needs may very well branch out into a more costly legal endeavor. But, this will only happen if there is in fact worth in your idea, making it profitable. So whatever money you will have to spend on a lawyer in the beginning, may be well worth it in the long run. You want to do everything you can to protect your creation, and hiring a lawyer will be your best bet. Personally, I would hate to see someone lose out on their own original idea, simply because of small legal technicalities. This is why it is important to just have an initial consultation, so you can determine whether the value of your idea is worth the legal costs.
I hope this answer is helpful. You should really check out ourand do some price comparisons so you can get a better feel of what you are looking at. If you have any questions, please reach out. I am always eager to help fellow startups grow and succeed. Best of luck!