Accessing legal representation and advice can be important and vital in certain situations. While during criminal cases an attorney will be appointed for you if you can’t afford one, that’s not the case if you need legal advisement or representation in other situations.
It’s no secret that obtaining legal aid and advice can be expensive; this can be distressing when you are in need but working within a small budget. Sometimes you’ll need to get creative in order to get the legal help you need, but there are resources available to you. Below we’ll discuss some options to obtain legal advice for low income at little or no cost.
Depending on your particular legal situation, you may be able to seek assistance with your local law school; often these schools will have free legal clinics. While most likely you’ll be getting assistance from a lawyer still in school, they are lawfully able to assist you while under the supervision of a faculty member who is a practicing attorney. Contact your local law school or Bar Association to find out more information on what’s available to you.
Legal Aid Societies
Non-profit organizations located throughout the country, known as Legal Aid Societies, can help provide free legal services to those in the low-income bracket. There will be income limitations to your utilization of this, but it’s worth checking into. Visit the American Bar Association website for more information on possible legal aid available to you.
Prepaid Legal Service Plans
Prepaid legal service plans can work in several ways - you may even already be a part of one through your employer. While legal service plans don’t typically offer representation in court, they can help you with the following:
- Legal advice through phone, in-office, and by email
- Review of legal documentation
- Assistance in and preparation of a will or other legal documents
- Legal documents
- Brief assistance in communication with another party
You can obtain plans outside of an employer, as well. Be careful to choose a plan that works within your budget, will cover your needs, and within the time-frame that you plan to use it. You can visit the American Bar Association’s website for more information on prepaid legal service plans available to you.
Utilize Small Claims Court
You can’t utilize small claims court in every situation, but it can be helpful if you want to avoid legal fees over a smaller dispute. Check with your local state small claims court to determine what the monetary restrictions are.
Speak to Your States Bar Association
There may be local pro bono legal help or reduced fee legal aid, available to you that your state’s local bar association can help direct you to. It’s definitely worth checking into.
Nonprofit or Public Interest Groups
Depending on the issue you’re having, you may be able to seek assistance through local nonprofit or public interest organizations or groups. These groups can be helpful if your problem has to do with discrimination or civil liberties.
Depending on your situation, you may be able to seek assistance through a government agency. Typically, you can find assistance in the area of child support collection, alimony collection, and defense if you’re being charged with a crime.
Dispute Resolution Programs
Sometimes, certain situations can be resolved outside of the court. This is known as dispute resolution or mediation. Often these services are available at little or no cost to you by non-profit organizations. Check with your state’s local bar association if you need assistance in locating a program to assist you. Utilizing a resource like this can save you time and money.