You’ve probably heard plenty of disclaimers from people who claim not to be giving official legal advice. After all, that’s the society we live in. Everyone needs to protect their own liability. At the same time though, our society also sometimes requires to reach out to attorneys in regards to legal matters beyond our means. For most people, the thought of hiring a lawyer induces hallucinations of dollar signs and their wallet shrinking. And shrinking quickly. The typical hourly rate of a lawyer lands somewhere in the hundreds of dollars range. Legal fees for any issue, big or small, are going to add up in a hurry. However, obtaining legal advice, even if it’s not from a licensed attorney, doesn’t have to cost you your life savings. There are some cheaper options.
If you’re looking for legal advice, no matter the subject, there are free resources out there that you can — and probably should — explore first. To help you in your time of legal need, we’ve put together a list of free resources that should cover most of your concerns. We’ll even offer you advice on what to keep in mind as you look for legal aid. Keep in mind that speaking to a lawyer and actually hiring one are two very distinct processes.
Are you ready to tackle that tangled legal issue? Allow us to put you on the path towards cheaper legal resources.
What Type of Legal Aid are You Looking For?
One of the first things you’ll want to do before you even perform a Google search is to narrow down what type of legal aid you’re looking for. This will direct you to an appropriate attorney who specializes in that field.
For example, you might need legal help for a variety of issues. There are divorce lawyers, those who deal with bankruptcy, and attorneys who specialize in foreclosure. That’s not even mentioning the plethora of lawyers involved in family law. Child support and custody are just the tip of the iceberg in that particular niche. Legal experts can also tackle concerns like unemployment, landlord-tenant issues, or medical bills.
For starters, make a bulleted list of your concerns. These can also be in the form of questions you’d like to ask. Take a look at what you’ve written down and see if you can summarize it into a single category. This will guide you towards the correct specialty you should be targeting in your search for legal aid.
Free Government Legal Aid
You’ve probably heard of the legal aid available to those who are charged with alleged crimes. It’s repeated in ever cop show ever made. You know, the part of the Miranda Rights that say “those who cannot afford an attorney will be provided with one.” That’s a public defender, who can represent you in the event you are charged with a criminal offense.
However, there’s also a free legal resource called Legal Services Corporation (LSC) that was founded by Congress. Their “Find Legal Aid” tool acts as a directory to guide you towards LSC-funded legal aid organizations in your area. If you know what type of legal aid you’re looking for, this tool is just the beginning of the free resources you should take advantage of.
Free Online Legal Resources
As you might imagine, there are plenty of free online resources as well. While most of them might not actually answer your legal questions or guide you towards a specific action, they will help you find the right people and organizations who will.
The American Bar Association hosts a variety of resources, both online and in-person. You should peruse their pro bono resource directory if you’re looking to take advantage of resources available to those less fortunate. You can also search their website by state to find other resources to help you solve simple legal problems.
The government site USA.gov also hosts a list of resources, from websites to organizations, geared specifically towards particular groups or affiliations. You should also consult LawHelp.org. It was specifically created “for people living on low-incomes and the legal organizations that serve them.”
Legal aid societies are another resource you might tap into. According to U.S. News, “legal aid societies are nonprofit organizations found in almost every corner of the country that provide free legal services to low-income people.” Remember, many of these websites may not offer the specific aid you’re looking for. You probably won’t score a free lawyer from them. But they can narrow down your search without taxing your finances.
Free Local Legal Resources
With all this free legal aid available online, don’t forget your local resources as well. The aid you’re looking for might just be a 10-minute drive away.
We spoke of the American Bar Association earlier. This organization hosts a variety of self-help clinics geared towards empowering individuals to take charge of their legal situation. Check out their directory to find self-help clinics going on in your area. Whether or not they pertain to your particular legal concern, they are surely worth attending simply for the knowledge freely available.
Don’t forget that the law already resides in your local town and state. Each state has its own consumer protection offices you can contact for more information. State and county bar associations may host a number of free legal aid as well. You should also consider visiting the small claims court in your locality to speak with representatives there and learn more about some of the basic legal processes.
When it comes to finding a lawyer in your area, you can refer to Find Law. This website helps connect you to attorneys in your area. But you shouldn’t forget about law schools around town as well. These schools host a variety of events where students can offer their legal advice for free. While you may prefer to get a second opinion, this can be a good place to start. You should also take advantage of any lawyer referral services in your area. These companies interview you and connect you with legal aid for your particular situation.
Getting the Most From Your Legal Aid
The resources we listed above will help you find some sort of legal aid. But what should you do once you’ve gotten the information you need? Here’s a list of considerations to keep the process moving.
- Document as much as you can.
- Make sure the lawyer you choose is licensed.
- Ask for a free consultation.
- Seek out consultations with a handful of attorneys. Get a second, third, or even fourth opinion.
- Clarify any lawyer fees and how they are calculated.
- Search out pro bono attorneys to see if they will take your case on pro bono.
It might be a bit late in the game to mention it, but many legal cases are built as events happen. Trying to recall dates and times, even names or particular details, can be much harder as time goes on. Do what you can now to protect yourself later. You’ll be thankful you did.
The Right to Legal Representation
Involving a lawyer can feel like a big step towards something you may or may not have control of. If you are forced to hire one, you will probably be worried about the associated costs. But keep in mind that there are free resources out there, both in-person and online. Not every legal problem needs a $700/hour shark to tackle paperwork or courtroom proceedings. Use this guide to take advantage of cheaper resources for your legal affairs.
One last piece of advice, though. Depending on the severity of your problem (or the amount of money at stake), it’s sometimes better to bite the bullet and pay a professional. The legal system is increasingly complicated, making it difficult for a layperson to navigate on their own. Paying the money for a legitimate legal professional might actually save you money in the long run. In some specific cases, it doesn’t pay to cheap out on proper legal representation.