What Is Legal Aid?
Legal aid is an office that provides free legal help to those who cannot afford to pay for it. Learn about legal aid!
With the high cost of legal intervention today, the average person finds it difficult to afford legal assistance when a problem arises. But today you do not have to despair when seeking legal counsel if the reason is just because you cannot afford a high priced attorney. In some cases you may be able to get the help you need with little or no money.
Legal aid is an office that provides free legal help to those who cannot afford to pay for it. In many cases these offices are sponsored and financed by local government. There are many different places to look for help. If your dispute is concerning taxes you can often have it resolved with the help of a local tax payer's association. Most insurance claims can often be settled through your state insurance commissioner and if the problem is discrimination you can contact the offices of the federal or state attorney general for help. In this case you can even contact a special interest organization that is concerned with your particular legal problem. Groups such as the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund or the National Organization for women will bring suit for an individual if your actions fits their guidelines.
Any problem that involves the courts will require the services of a licensed attorney and if you are a defendant in a criminal case that cannot afford an attorney you can speak to a public defender. Simply tell the police this is what you desire to do before answering any question. This is your right and the court must appoint you a lawyer any time you cannot afford one by law. If you are dealing with a civil or administrative case you may be able to get a lawyer at little or no charge through the Legal Aid Society offices. These offices are found in many cities and give help in three major areas including domestic relations, disputes between a client and landlord, lender or installment seller and money claims for wages. In all these cases the eligibility requirements will vary but in all cases being able to prove a financial need is always the key to whether or not you will be originally determined to qualify for this type of help.
If you find that you do not qualify for Legal Aid or any of the other programs and even if you simply feel you would be better served by using a private lawyer there is still help. Begin by exploring the free or reduced cost services that are provided by some law firms today. Check out the yellow pages in your phone book under attorney referral services and watch for ads concerning legal help pro bono publico which means for the public good. In many communities you may find legal clinics. These help with the relatively simple matters like a routine will or uncontested divorce. Remember that if your dispute concerns a small amount of money you can bring the matter to small claims court without an attorney.
In most large towns and even smaller cities you can find a small claims court whose purpose is to settle minor civil disputes at a minimum cost. This court does not handle any criminal charges so only use this avenue if your complaint is non-criminal and the general amount you are attempting to recover is around $2,000. Check with small claims court in your area to see what the limit is on the amount you can claim before filing. In most cases the hearings for small claims court are held in the evening. They are very informal and you will not need an attorney to represent your or prepare your paperwork. If you plan to sue in small claims court you will need to go during business hours to file a complaint with your county clerk. You will be ask to give the name and address of the person you are suing, as well as a brief description of your complaint. There will be a small fee to cover the court cost and the cost of sending a summons. The small claims court will set a hearing date and inform the person you are suing of the action.
When a small claims court judge decides in your favor your should receive any monies that are due you in two weeks. If you do not receive payment send a copy of the judgement to the person you have sued by register mail with return receipt requested. Include a letter asking for payment and keep a copy. If the person still refuses to pay notify the court.