It’s always a sinking feeling—mostly in the wallet—when you realize that you need the advice of a lawyer. Legal representation doesn’t come cheap, but luckily there are some options you can explore that will leave your wallet if not as heavy, then only slightly lighter.
There are a few ways to get legal advice nowadays. You can ask questions online, tap into digital and paper archives, or you can get in touch with a lawyer online. These are all viable and will all take varying levels of effort and time management from you.
As a single parent time is never on your side, but legal issues are best handled immediately before they get out of hand. It might be worth the extra dollars to pay the babysitter, or call in a favor, so that you can go and get good advice from a professional.
Best Options for Legal Help for Low Income Persons
1) Find a real Lawyer (Face to Face Meetings)
Try family and friends first, even if they are just a law student, they may be helpful. In some cases you may even be able to handle some parts of your case yourself. It will involve some research but this option should help you to reduce the cost of the lawyer you will need for the rest of your case.
You can also apply for free Legal Aid or find a lawyer to take your case on for a lower fee or pro bono.
a. Applying for free Legal Aid: There are Legal Aid offices all over the US. They are either federally or privately funded, so may have some restrictions as to the nature of the cases they can take on. This is quite a popular way to seek legal advice but there is a catch; the waiting list is long, and you have to qualify.
The free Legal Aid system was developed to help those who earn less than 125% of the federal poverty guidelines. There are other criteria as well that can be read about at http://www.lsc.gov/ as well as special circumstances where people who normally wouldn’t qualify can be considered.
This is a popular option and it might be worth a trip to your local office to speak a professional there. If you qualify the sooner you can get your name on the list the better. To find your local Legal Aid office follow this link and enter your zip code or address. http://www.lsc.gov/what-legal-aid/find-legal-aid
b. Pro bono. If you don’t qualify for free Legal Aid but still can’t afford a lawyer, there is another option for you to pursue. You can try to engage the services of a legal professional for free. (Pro Bono)
Lawyers don’t usually work for free, but some do take on cases in this capacity from time to time. The website www.Lawyer.com lists lawyers who take on such cases. Click on the tab at the top of the page that says Lawyer search. This takes you to a form to fill in where you can supply all necessary information. At the Type of services drop down choose non-profit. You can order the list of attorneys by name or by distance from you. Then hit the search button. This brings up a whole list of attorneys that you can then sift through and find one that you like. Contacting them couldn’t be easier—just click the contact button.
c. Find an affordable lawyer: If pro bono isn’t an option either and you really can’t see a way to handle your problem yourself, then approaching an affordable lawyer might be worth the cost. These legal professionals have reduced their rates to help to make justice more accessible to everyone.
Unlike pro bono and Legal Aid attorneys these professionals are not funded. They simply have found a way to keep their costs as low as possible to make their fees more affordable. This might be a good option if you can afford to pay a reasonable sum for legal advice.
A site you can visit is requestlegalservices.com. They will ask you to fill in a form that tells them your legal issue, your state and zip code. Someone will contact you and you will be on your way to finding an affordable lawyer in your area with experience with your type of issue. A similar site you could try is www.legalhelplawyers.com. They also have a database of lawyers offering reduced rates.
www.attorneypages.com is another useful site. On the landing page choose Find an Attorney. From the dropdown menu choose the practice area you want, e.g.: divorce and then enter your zip code. They will then supply you with a list of attorney’s in your area that could help you with your query.
On this site you can view the attorney’s credentials and have access to their information. You can also visit their own website if you click to be redirected to their website. Their contact information is also available so you can email or call them. No mention is made of whether the legal professionals take pro bono cases or charge reduced rates. So that might be a good question to ask up front when contacting them.
2) You can ask a lawyer online.
This works well if you are trying to find out how to handle your problem without incurring unnecessary costs. It’s also helpful if you are the kind of person who likes to get a second opinion on things, because more than one legal professional can weigh in on your question at a time.
All of these types of websites work with easily filled in, online forms asking for information about your problem, and the area you live in as each state has its own set of laws. A word of caution though, some will ask for payment for their advice but it is usually nominal. However since come of the advice given runs along the line of, “get a lawyer” you might want to read their Q & A first to see the quality of the answers given, before handing over your cash.
Here is a short list of some options available.
- jamesmorgan.attorney/us this website has a long form to fill in before you get to pose your question. They also charge 1.49USD for their service.
- freeadvice.com On the landing page choose the option of ask a legal question. Then three options pop up.
- Ask a lawyer for a nominal fee. You will get your answer immediately and they state 100% satisfaction guaranteed.
- Ask a Lawyer for free. This will take a few days to get an answer to you, but might be a good option depending how urgently you need an answer.
- Ask our community. There is a link to click to check their archive and see if anyone else has ever asked a similar question to yours. If not, you can put your question to the forum, for free.
All of these options are easy to work and just a click away.
- avvo.com This site allows you to post your question for free, but if you want to speak to a lawyer it will cost 39USD. They have a rather good Q & A section, so that might be worth taking a look at before parting ways with your hard earned dollars.
To access the Q & A click on the Q & A tab. This will open a form that for this you can ignore. However, at the top of the page is a link Legal Topics. Click on it and choose an option. This will bring up a list of articles on that subject for you to read.
There are many more sites like these out there. Just keep your wits about you and you should be able to find at some answers to your legal issues.
3) Research archives are available
This is a time consuming option. It takes effort and yes time, to sort through information. Of course you probably don’t have a unique problem. Someone must have had a similar situation to yours at some point, and running a search in an archive is a good way to find out what they did to resolve the issue. This is free and may give you some ideas you would otherwise never have thought of.
a. Online: Google scholar is a good resource if you want to read about previous cases like your own. (Scholar.google.com/scholar). It opens a Google search bar. You type in the type of question you have e.g.: child custody, and hit the search button. A whole list of past cases pop up for you to read through.
We’ve done a bit of the research for your so here are the two websites that do offer you this service:
- www.requestlegalservices.com has a really good FAQ section on hand that is easily accessible through their website. They also have a collection of useful articles and offer the option of filling in their online form, and having a legal professional calling you back with an answer.
- www.freeadvice.com offers an archive of articles and videos on various subjects. From the landing page choose the option that best fits your problem, e.g.: family law. That brings up a new screen with new options to choose from. Make your choice by clicking on it. You will find a host of related articles and short videos featuring or written by experts in that field.
b. Law Libraries. These are archives of cases, and are all over the US. This might be best saved as a last resort as you will probably have to go there in person. However it is possible to get the number for your state law library off the internet, but it is quite a process. A Google search for “The Law Library…and your area” might give some helpful information but it might also take a lot of searches to find what you are looking for.
If there is a local law school in your area, you might be able to ask their reception if there are any resources they can give you information on. There is no harm in asking and worst they can tell you is that they don’t know of any.
4) In Person
Across the country various courthouses offer workshops on legal issues and their staff are on hand to offer help with forms. They are also capable of providing answers to some questions. At the very least they should know where to direct you to, to find the information you need. It might be worth a trip to your local courthouse to find out if they have any information on hand that can help you.
An online search for this information may prove tricky. It may be best to do a search for your local courthouse and see what is available there. You should be able to find their Online Self-help center that should offer you local, relevant information on your case. There is a wealth of information on these sites and it’s all the more worth the hassle of searching for it, because it is local and will probably have a better chance of being relevant to you than information from another state. Sadly each area has its own site and so they can’t all be listed here.
In conclusion, if you are willing to put in a little effort, you can find at least some of the answers you need. It may take a while, and the advice you receive might be that you need to consult a lawyer face to face, but at least you will be able to tackle your problem with more knowledge about how things work than before.