Mitchell Allen is the founder and CEO of the Debt Education Certification Foundation, an organization that provides credit counseling certificates and debtor education courses for those who are filing for bankruptcy. He’s also the founder of legal services marketing agency LeadRival. He’s the author of numerous books on debt and bankruptcy.
Mitchell is not an attorney and his answers should not be considered legal advice. Please consult with an attorney about your legal situation. Full Bio
Where can I get free legal advice?
At some time during your life, you may find yourself needing legal representation or having questions about your legal rights, and find that you can’t afford to pay for answers. The good news is that there are several options available to you that give you access to legal services and aid at a reduced charge, or even for free for those in financial need.
These legal services put you in contact with lawyers who do not charge for their services and provide you with what is known as pro bono legal services. Pro bono means "for the public good," and attorneys that provide pro bono services can help you with a variety of legal cases, including family law, housing, criminal cases, disability and the workplace, and immigration, to name a few.
Pro Bono Services
There is a staggering need for legal services among the poor, and according to a study by the American Bar Association, 40% of low to moderate-income households experience legal problems every year.
One good online service that provides gateway services to pro bono legal help is probono.net, a national nonprofit based in New York City and San Francisco, which dedicates itself to increasing the availability of justice for people who cannot afford to pay for legal help. You may also be able to find pro bono lawyers in your area.
Legal Aid Programs
You may be able to qualify for free or reduced-cost civil legal assistance through a legal aid program if you do not exceed certain income thresholds. If you have a legal problem in your state, you can obtain a complete directory of civil legal assistance programs on the Internet.
A word of caution here: many businesses will often advertise "legal aid" on the Web. You should always question this source to make sure that you are requesting legal services from a program that actually provides free legal assistance. Here are a few legal aid suggestions that will help you if you find that you can't afford to pay for services:
Online Legal Aid Services
There are several websites designed to help connect those who need free or low-cost legal assistance with those who provide it. The Web is also a good resource for beginning some research into your legal problems.
Some examples of services on these sites include getting your legal questions answered or being able to download free legal templates or documents.
There are many government agencies online and in the blue pages of your phone book that offer legal help. If you search online by legal topic, you can find information about certain government agencies that may be able to help.
If you are charged with a crime and can’t afford an attorney, you may be qualified to get free legal help from a local public defender. The court will usually refer a public defender to your case.
County and State Court Services
Another resource for free legal aid are county and state court services. The courts will often provide Friend of the Court services or legal clinics free of charge to those involved in certain types of lawsuits, especially for family law cases.
Be sure to check with the Clerk of the Courts or your court’s website to find out if your county or state offers these services.
Law School Clinics
Law schools can also be a resource for free legal aid. Some have free legal clinics for specific types of legal issues. Check with the local court or bar association to get information about these clinics. Sometimes, you can contact the law school directly.
A lawyer referral service can help you find a lawyer for free or at a reduced rate if you don’t qualify for free services. They can give you information about free or low-cost legal aid that won’t cost you much money.
Free Legal Consultations
Another way to seek out some free legal assistance is to visit attorney websites and browse around for attorneys that offer free consultations. Most of them do, and there are even some that won’t charge you unless you are compensated for your damages or injuries.
If you find that you will need legal assistance or information, and you can’t afford to pay, rest assured that there are several resources available that can help you with your questions and provide legal options.