Free and Low-Cost Legal Help (2022)

Finding a free or low-cost lawyer is difficult because there are a lot of people who need lawyers but cannot afford them. Here are the main groups that may be able to help you:

Court-based self-help services
Legal aid agencies and other non-profit groups
Government agencies
Lawyer-referral services and bar associations
Law schools
Dispute resolution programs
Prepaid legal services plans

Court-based self-help services

All California superior courts have some legal help available to people who do not have lawyers and are representing themselves. Because there are many types of services and information to assist you in getting help from your court, we have created an entire section just for court services. Find out more about help from your court.

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Legal aid agencies and other nonprofit groups

Legal aid agencies

There are legal aid offices in many cities throughout California. Legal aid agencies are non-profit organizations that provide free legal services to people below a certain income level. Before you can get help from a legal aid agency, you usually have to qualify for their help based on your low income. Because there are so many people in need of legal help, your income has to be fairly low to qualify.

Also, legal aid agencies cannot help with all types of cases. Legal aid agencies usually help with domestic violence cases, family law, evictions, public benefits, immigration, employment issues, and other types of cases that can cause serious problems in a person's every day life. They will probably not be able to help you if you want to sue someone because of a car accident for example (unless you are filing in small claims court, since some legal aid programs do help with small claims cases).

But if you need a lawyer and cannot afford one, it is always a good idea to try to get help from a legal aid agency in your area. Just do not be discouraged if they cannot help you.

Use to find legal aid offices in your area and find out what areas of law they cover. This website can also help you with lawyer referral services, and other free and low-cost services in your county.

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Nonprofit and public interest groups

Non-profit public interest organizations, like groups concerned with civil libertiesor housing discrimination, may be able to help you. These groups sometimes have staff lawyers who might be able to handle your case. Others provide legal help only to groups of people rather than to individuals. For example, they might help you and your neighbors convince your city council to install a traffic light at a busy intersection.

Use LawHelpCa.orgto find nonprofit groups in your area and find out if they may be able to help you with your legal problem.

Government agencies

There are several government agencies that can offer legal help. If you look up information on this website by legal topic, you will find information about specific government agencies that help with that topic.

For example, in the child support section, you will find a lot of detailed information about your local child support agencyand how they can help parents collect and pay child support for their children. Click to find the local child support agency in your county.

(Video) How to Get Free Legal Help in all 50 States: Pro Bono Legal Aid and DIY Options Available!

If you are being charged with a crime and you cannot afford a lawyer, you may qualify for free help fromyour local public defender’s office. Usually, the court will refer you to a public defender. If the public defender cannot take your case or if there is no public defender in your area, the court will usually appoint another lawyer to represent you for free. Find the public defender for your county.

You can also find these government agencies in the blue pages of your phone book. And you can find them online.

Lawyer-referral services

Lawyer referral services help people find lawyers. They can tell you about free or low-cost legal services in your area for people who qualify. If you do not qualify for free help, they can give you other information to help you find legal help that does not cost you a lot of money. For example, they keep lists of lawyers who will meet with you once to discuss your case. They will not charge you very much -- usually $20 to $45. Sometimes, this initial consultation is all you need to get started on your own. The lawyer will also explain the services he or she can offer you and how much you can expect to pay. Some lawyers have lower fees for people who do not have very much money. Some lawyers will help you with key parts of your case and let you do the rest (called "limited-scope representation" or "unbundling").

Click to find a lawyer referral service in your area.
To learn more about limited-scope representation or unbundling.

Law schools

Some law schools have free legal clinics for certain types of legal problems. Your local bar association or your court will likely know about these clinics and can give you more information. Or contact your local law school to find out.

(Video) How to find an attorney to help for free.

Dispute resolution programs

Many communities have "dispute resolution" programs. These programs can try to help "mediate" or work out problems instead of going to court, so you may not need a lawyer. Find more information on resolvingyour disputeout of court.

Prepaid legal services plans

You may belong to a prepaid group legal services plan through your employer, your union, or your credit union. in general, most basic plans provide legal advice and consultation by telephone and may also include brief office consultations, review of simple legal documents, preparation of a simple will, discounts on legal services through a network of lawyers, access to a database of legal forms and documents, and short letters written or phone calls made by a lawyer to an adverse party. Check to see if you belong to a plan.

Prepaid legal services plans work in a variety of ways. When you consider a plan, pay careful attention to what the plan does and does not cover. If you do not anticipate having legal needs in the coming year that will be covered by the plan, you should think carefully before purchasing a plan. Similarly, if you think that you might take advantage of a service under the plan, such as the preparation of a simple will, be aware that lawyers who accept the plan will likely try to sell you an upgraded service. In some cases, it will make sense to obtain the upgraded service, but there may not be any cost savings as a result of plan membership.

Also, if you find that you do not like the lawyer available through your plan, you may find that you are unable to change lawyers through the plan or that there are no other lawyers in the area who participate in the plan. You may wish to inquire about the identities of local lawyers who accept a specific plan before making the decision to purchase the plan.

If you are purchasing a plan through an independent representative, instead of directly from the corporation that sponsors the plan (or through a group such as your employer, union, or credit union), you should pay special attention to the written language of the plan and compare this to any promises made by the representative. Plans that sell through multilevel marketing may refuse to take responsibility for any false promises made by an independent representative, who may well be primarily motivated by earning a commission rather than serving your best interests.

(Video) Legal Aid and Other Low-Cost Legal Help

You may be eligible for a prepaid legal services plan through your employer, your union, or your credit union. If not, you may wish to look at plans endorsed by or sponsored by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association’s American Prepaid Legal Services Institute's listing of legal serviceplans. Your regional Better Business Bureau may also be able to provide you with consumer information about particular plans.


Do Solicitors still offer free advice? ›

Some solicitors give 30 minutes' legal advice for free. Some offer a fixed fee - that way you'll know in advance what the advice will cost. You can call a solicitor's office and ask if they offer a free half hour or a fixed fee. A free or fixed-fee appointment can help you find out your rights and legal position.

Who is eligible for legal aid in UK? ›

To get legal aid, you usually need to show you cannot afford to pay for legal costs and your problem is serious. You'll usually have to give details and evidence of your income, benefits, savings and property, and those of your partner.

Do you get a free solicitor at court? ›

Welcome to RCJ Advice

We deliver free legal advice to people with a court case in the civil and family courts in England and Wales. All our services are available by email, phone and over zoom. Our legal services are open each week day and you are able to request an appointment to see one of our lawyers.

Can I get help with legal fees UK? ›

To get legal aid, your legal adviser or family mediator will need a legal aid contract. Find a solicitor or mediator with a legal aid contract on GOV.UK. Your legal adviser or family mediator will check if you can get legal aid and apply for you. If you qualify, the legal aid will be paid directly to them.

What is the maximum income to qualify for legal aid UK? ›

In the Crown Court there is means testing against income. An individual is eligible for legal aid if that individual's gross annual income does not exceed £12,475, or where their gross annual income is greater than £12,475 and disposable annual income is less than £37,500.

What is the income threshold for legal aid? ›

Who can get legal aid? You qualify for legal aid if: You are on a low income or receive income-related benefits, such as income support, income-related ESA or JSA. If your monthly income, excluding PIP or DLA is above £2657 you will not be eligible for legal aid.

Who automatically qualifies for legal aid? ›

Your income will automatically qualify if you are in receipt of Income Support, income-based Jobseekers Allowance, income-based Employment and Support Allowance or Pension Guarantee Credit. You will also qualify if your disposable income does not exceed £733 per month.

How long does it take for legal aid to be approved? ›

Applications are usually processed within 25 working days. If we agree a case is urgent, we will prioritise it and make a decision within 10 working days.

Can I get legal aid if im on universal credit? ›

If you are on Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance or Universal Credit you will automatically be eligible for civil legal aid on both income and savings grounds.

Should I represent myself in court? ›

You'll be too emotionally invested in your case

Your every word, action and expression will be scrutinised in the courtroom and your response could influence the judge or jury's decision in a negative way. If you've been arrested, it's crucial that you get legal representation as soon as possible.

What is a pro bono lawyer? ›

To qualify for free legal assistance, a person must comply with a 'means test' (a maximum monthly or no income) and have a legal problem with merit. You will be referred to an attorney by the Legal Practice Council who will assist you free of charge (pro bono).

Can you defend yourself in court? ›

If you don't make a no-evidence motion (or you do but the judge doesn't agree with you), you can present your defence. You can use documents, call witnesses, and, if you like, give your own personal testimony. If you call witnesses, you question them first, and then the prosecutor may cross-examine (question) them.

How much does a court case cost UK? ›

The court fee is based on the amount you're claiming, plus any interest. To calculate 5% of the value of the claim, take the amount you're claiming and multiply it by 0.05. If necessary, round down the result to the nearest 1 pence. The fee will be calculated for you if you make your claim online.

What is legal aid funding? ›

Legal Aid Funding (Representation Orders)

Legal Aid is a Government scheme which provides payment to your lawyers for representation in certain cases. Legal Aid funding is available to certain individuals depending on the type of case and your financial circumstance and is subject to financial means testing.

Can I get legal aid for financial settlement? ›

Legal aid is still available in funding finance cases in divorce, but only if you are financially eligible and you are at risk of domestic abuse.

Do I have to pay back legal aid? ›

Not all cases where Legal Help is granted require you to pay back your legal costs if you win. You will only be asked to repay your costs in family, personal injury or clinical negligence cases.

What is the merits test for legal aid? ›

The merits test

This is known as the means test. You will need to provide evidence of all of your income (such as wages and benefits) and any capital (such as savings, properties and shares). The Legal Aid Agency will then deduct certain allowances for rent, if you work, have children or other dependents.

Why use a barrister instead of a solicitor? ›

Barristers can be distinguished from a solicitor because they wear a wig and gown in court. They work at higher levels of court than solicitors and their main role is to act as advocates in legal hearings, which means they stand in court and plead the case on behalf of their clients in front of a judge.

What is the difference between legal help and legal aid? ›

Legal aid will pay towards the rates or fixed fees of a solicitor for your case. There are different types of legal aid: Legal Help – a solicitor can advise you and negotiate with the other party but cannot represent at court.

Which UK benefits are means-tested? ›

The means-tested benefits are: Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance. Income-related Employment and Support Allowance. Income Support.

What is civil legal aid? ›

Civil Legal aid is free legal assistance to low- and middle-income people who have civil legal problems. These problems are non-criminal; rather, civil legal aid helps people access basic necessities such as health care, housing, government benefits, employment, and educational services.

What does disposable capital mean? ›

"Disposable capital" is the value of every resource of a capital nature belonging to the party on the date on which the application for remission is made, unless it is treated as income or it is disregarded as excluded disposable capital (see (f) below).

Why do we need legal aid? ›

Free legal aid is the provision of free legal services in civil and criminal matters for those poor and marginalized people who cannot afford the services of a lawyer for the conduct of a case or a legal proceeding in any Court, Tribunal or Authority.

Which statute created the civil legal aid scheme? ›

The modern system of legal aid was created by the Legal Advice and Assistance Act 1949. The scheme was a direct result of the recommendations of the Rushcliffe committee, which reported to Parliament in May 19452.

What is exceptional case funding? ›

Exceptional case funding (ECF) is meant to be a safety net for individuals who need representation in any area of law that is out of scope for legal aid. However, nearly all of the ECF applications that have been made relate to just a handful of areas of law.

What is a cw1 form? ›

Controlled work form: for when advising parents or those with parental responsibility for a child under section 31 proceedings.

Can you appeal a legal aid decision? ›

If you hold a representation lower certificate and you wish to appeal to a higher court you will need to make an application to representation higher.

Is Universal Credit a passported benefit for legal help? ›

From 29 April 2013, UC became a passporting benefit. In all civil cases, clients who receive UC will be passported through the gross income and disposable income test. However, their capital must be assessed and some clients will be required to pay a contribution from their capital.

What is the legal aid Board? ›

The Legal Aid Board is a statutory body established under the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995. The main functions of the Board are to: Provide legal aid and legal advice in civil cases (non-criminal cases) to people who meet the criteria. Provide a family mediation service.

Is Universal Credit a means tested benefit? ›

Universal Credit is a means-tested benefit which will eventually replace Income Support, Income-Based Jobseeker's Allowance, Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit. DWP refers to these as 'legacy benefits'.

Has anyone ever won a case representing themselves? ›

people who represented themselves in court

James Traficant, then a Democratic congressman from Ohio, represented himself in a 2002 trial for crimes including bribery and racketeering. He was convicted and later expelled from the House of Representatives. He represented himself in a similar case in 1983.

Can a person defend himself in court without a lawyer? ›

Sir, You can defend your own case. But the chances for a party to succed are very less. The court procedures are not known to the party in person. It is better to have an advocate.

What are the disadvantages of representing yourself in court? ›

The Cons of going “Pro Se”
  • 1). You Cannot Win an Argument Using “Common Sense” ...
  • 2). The Court Sees You as Biased. ...
  • 3). You Likely Have a Severe Lack of Legal Training. ...
  • 4). The Court System Discourages Self-Representation. ...
  • 1). Lawyers are Expensive. ...
  • 2). Your Lawyer May Not Be Fully Representing You. ...
  • 3).

What is it called when you can't afford a lawyer? ›

If you cannot afford a lawyer, legal aid may be able to help you. There are legal aid offices (also called legal services) throughout the United States. Legal aid offices are not-for-profit agencies that provide free legal help to people who cannot afford to hire a lawyer.

Why should I do pro bono? ›

The most important reason to do pro bono work is to provide benefit to the community that might otherwise not be available. You have legal and other skills that are in short supply and are in great need. The cost of skilled legal services is very high and beyond the reach of many.

What are Probono cases? ›

Pro bono is short for the Latin phrase pro bono publico, which means "for the public good." The term generally refers to services that are rendered by a professional for free or at a lower cost. Professionals in many fields offer pro bono services to nonprofit organizations.

How do you respond to a lawsuit without a lawyer? ›

Below are a few options you can consider:
  1. File an answer. The most common way to respond to a complaint is by filing an answer. ...
  2. Negotiate. Being served with a lawsuit does not automatically mean you need to appear in court. ...
  3. Request more information from the plaintiff. ...
  4. Cross-complain. ...
  5. File a motion to dismiss.

Do you have to call a judge your honor? ›

In person: In an interview, social event, or in court, address a judge as “Your Honor” or “Judge [last name].” If you are more familiar with the judge, you may call her just “Judge.” In any context, avoid “Sir” or “Ma'am.” Special Titles.

How do you win at court? ›

Tips for Success in the Courtroom
  1. Meet Your Deadlines. ...
  2. Choose a Judge or Jury Trial. ...
  3. Learn the Elements of Your Case. ...
  4. Make Sure Your Evidence Is Admissible. ...
  5. Prepare a Trial Notebook.
  6. Learn the Ropes.
  7. Watch Some Trials. ...
  8. Be Respectful.

Why do lawyers give free legal advice? ›

When you need to hire an attorney for legal services, you want to be sure to hire the right person for your case. Most lawyers offer a free consultation so that you have a chance to determine if he or she is the right person for you.

Where can I get advice? ›

The 8 Best Sites to Get Good Free Advice Online
  • 7 Cups.
  • Elder Wisdom Circle.
  • FreeAdvice.
  • r/advice.
  • Ask a Manager.
  • Fun Advice.
  • TheAnswerBank.
  • Hey, From the Future.
26 Nov 2019

Can you get free legal advice for divorce UK? ›

In England and Wales, legal aid isn't available for the legal costs of divorce or dissolution – unless it involves domestic abuse (including financial abuse), child abduction, or you're at risk of homelessness.

How much do lawyers charge per hour UK? ›

Hourly rates for a solicitor
Solicitor experience levelUK average per hourLondon average per hour
4+ years£180£235
8+ years£210£300
25 Jul 2022

How much is a lawyer consultation fee? ›

What Are Typical Lawyer Hourly Fees? Lawyer fees for a consultation vary throughout the United States. On average, consultation costs will range from about $250 an hour to $350 an hour. Rates will change depending on location, type of law, and attorney experience.

Who will you go to if you need legal advice? ›

In general, only a licensed attorney can give legal advice, but there is distinction between “legal advice” and “legal information.” Any non-lawyer can simply recite laws, but it is illegal for a non-lawyer or unlicensed attorney to offer legal advice or represent someone other than herself in a court of law.

How long does it take for legal aid to be approved? ›

Applications are usually processed within 25 working days. If we agree a case is urgent, we will prioritise it and make a decision within 10 working days.

Who is the best person to get advice? ›

Typically, you should seek out a friend or loved one who has handled experiences like the one you are dealing with in a way that you find admirable. For example, if you need advice about finding a job, it will probably be more helpful to ask someone who has recently been successful in finding a job.

Is there a website to ask lawyers questions? ›

ABA Free Legal Answers is a website on which you can submit your questions about civil (non-criminal) legal issues and receive answers from pro bono lawyers in your state. Legal questions are submitted online – all you need is an internet connection.

What do you do when you need advice? ›

To avoid those consequences, here's some guidance on how to ask for advice without annoying the other person:
  1. Start with a positive tone. ...
  2. Identify the type of advice you're seeking. ...
  3. Come prepared with specific details. ...
  4. Ask the right person. ...
  5. Don't ask everyone. ...
  6. Don't assume you already know the answers. ...
  7. Be grateful.
9 Jul 2019

How do I get a divorce with no money UK? ›

If you don't have the finances to pay the court fee to issue a petition for divorce, you may be able to get help with paying the fee.
There are 5 grounds to petition for a divorce, they are:
  1. Adultery.
  2. Unreasonable behaviour.
  3. Desertion.
  4. Two years separation with consent.
  5. Five years separation without consent.
1 Apr 2020

How much does a quick divorce cost UK? ›

Quickie Divorce offer several packages ranging in price from £37 to £167. In addition, a filing fee of £550 is payable to the courts, though you could have this reduced or even waived entirely.

How long do you have to be separated before divorce UK? ›

You can begin divorce proceedings as soon as you separate. There is no such thing as a 'quickie divorce'. Under the new law, there is now a requirement to wait 20 weeks from the date of issue until you can make an application for Conditional Order.

Can you pay solicitors fees in installments UK? ›

You can ask if your lawyer's firm will allow you to make payments over time. Sometimes law firms can offer those arrangements. For example, you might be able to pay your legal costs by instalments. You should check whether there will be any additional charge for paying in this way.

How much do solicitors charge for no win no fee? ›

How much do no win no fee solicitors charge in a successful claim? The final cost can vary depending on how complicated the claim is. However, if your claim succeeds, expect to pay your solicitor a success fee for winning the claim of up to 25% of the compensation you receive. This will likely happen in most cases.

Do solicitors charge for emails? ›

Yes. The unit charge for letters out and emails out will include perusing and considering the relevant letters in and emails in.


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