Get free or low-cost legal help

There are a number of resources that may be able to help you with free and low-cost legal help

Free and low-cost legal help

All California superior courts have free legal self-help programs. Self-Help staff can help you if you need legal information and don't have a lawyer. They can:

  • Tell you about your case
  • Help you with the forms you need 
  • Explain your legal options

Note they can tell you how to do things but can't tell you what you should do. They also cannot go to court for you.

Lawyer referral services 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 offer lists of lawyers who can meet with you for 30 minutes for a small fee (around $40.00). Sometimes this initial consultation is all you need to get started on your own. 

Some lawyers will help you with key parts of your case and let you do the rest (called limited-scope representation).

Legal aid services

You may be able to get free or low-cost legal help in non-criminal cases from a legal services program. This will depend on your income and type of legal problem. Use to find legal aid offices in your area and find out what areas of law they cover.

Public interest organizations

Non-profit public interest organizations, like groups concerned with civil liberties or 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. Use to find nonprofit groups in your area.

There are several government agencies that can offer legal help. For example, the Department of Child Support Services can get or enforce a child support order. If you look up information on this website by legal topic, you will find information about specific government agencies that help with that topic.

If you are being charged with a crime and you cannot afford a lawyer, you may qualify for free help from your 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. 

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.

Many public law libraries have free programs, like legal workshops or "Lawyer in the Library" where you can get free legal information. 

Law librarians can also help you with legal research and help you find legal books, online resources, and even samples templates you can use in a legal case.

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