Many in legal trouble have needed the aid of an attorney but did not have the resources to pay for one. Some have heard of legal aid organizations but may wonder what services these organizations can provide and how useful they really are.
Virtually every state has some form of legal aid society, often subsidized by the state's bar association. Often, these legal aid organizations obtain the volunteer services of local attorneys who agree to give advice to those who would not otherwise be able to afford an attorney. Unfortunately, the scope of such representation is usually limited to the initial meeting. This is often an excellent option for those with relatively straight forward issues like filling out paperwork, getting a few words of advice on simple legal questions, or getting a contract or pleading reviewed. Nevertheless, these clinics can provide invaluable services to those in need of legal aid, and the attorneys who volunteer for these programs are often among the best available in the local community.
In other cases, there are organizations dedicated to helping the poor with certain types of cases, like those related to fair housing, tenancy issues, or civil rights. These organizations will actually take on the representation of the client in court, filing the lawsuit on behalf of an indigent client, and pursuing the matter all the way to its conclusion. Generally, to qualify, one must show that they are without means and that their case is reasonably meritorious.
Legal aid organizations are not for those who can afford an attorney but are simply disinclined to do so. In fact, those who do not meet the income requirements may be turned away. But for those who are truly in need of assistance, these are valuable resources that can mean the difference in protecting one's legal interests. If you are seeking the assistance of a legal aid organization, you can usually find these groups via local or state bar associations. Similarly, bar associations can usually direct attorneys who are interested in participating in these organizations to the appropriate contact person to enroll you in their program.
Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.
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