Some of the different types of legal aid services include help in areas such as family law, immigration, consumer disputes, and elder law. Organizations that provide such services are typically non-profit and receive government grants to provide free legal help. To qualify for this kind of free legal assistance, a person generally must be of low income or indigent. In some areas, law schools provide similar services through a clinical program. A good resource to obtain a list of organizations is through a bar association.
Often called legal aid societies, organizations that provide free legal aid services often focus in particular areas such as family law, immigration, or consumer related matters. Family law includes divorces, child support, and domestic violence. Immigration may include help with securing appropriate documents to remain in a country or contest deportation. Consumer disputes may involve repossession of vehicles or consumer contract disputes.
Legal aid services to senior citizens often include preparation of documents such as wills, powers of attorney, health care proxies, or helping them apply for public benefits. Services may also include assistance with a variety of other legal issues that senior citizens may encounter. A person must be at least 62 or older, depending on the jurisdiction, to obtain such legal advise.
To qualify for legal aid services, a person generally must provide income information. If a person is of low income or poor, the legal aid organization usually agrees to provides assistance. Each organization or society may have differing methods of determining whether a person is of low income, however. For instance, a client’s monthly living expenses and the number of dependent family members may factor into the equation.
An exception to low-income requirements is for victims of domestic violence. Legal organizations that help domestic abuse victims usually do not verify income. This is because victim of domestic violence may be in urgent need of legal assistance, such as obtaining a protective order, to prevent physical harm.
In some areas, law schools may provide free legal aid services through a clinical program. In this kind of program, law students provide volunteer legal help with a variety of matters such as landlord/tenant disputes and criminal defense. Attorneys and law professors provide supervision. This helps students learn how to practice law, and members of the community benefit from free legal aid services.
A good resource to find a listing of organizations that provide free legal aid services is a bar association, i.e., the membership group of lawyers authorized to practice law in a particular jurisdiction. A bar association can provide contact information about available resources and organizations in the area. In some instances, they might have a list of private-practice lawyers willing to provide free legal services depending on the nature of the case.