The Law Dictionary

Your Free Online Legal Dictionary • Featuring Black’s Law Dictionary, 2nd Ed.

Free Legal Advice Resources

A couple receiving free legal advice from a pro bono attorney.

Many people are reluctant to seek guidance from an attorney because of the exorbitant costs often associated with legal help. If this sounds familiar, you will be relieved to know that free legal advice can be found for almost any legal issue you may have. The resources discussed below may help you resolve your legal problems at little to no cost.

American Bar Association (ABA)

The best place to start is the ABA, which can jump start your search for resources offering legal advice, free of charge. The ABA offers several different starting points to find free legal help:

  • The ABA’s Free Legal Answers initiative allows users to submit questions to be answered by volunteer attorneys in participating states
  • The ABA’s free legal resources page has an option to search by location, which can match you with many of the resources discussed below
  • You can look up your legal issue by state if you are seeking general information or have a simple legal problem

State and Local Bar Associations

Every state and most cities and counties have bar associations that provide legal resources. For example, the District of Columbia Bar Association provides free help resources to individuals, small businesses, and nonprofits in D.C.

In addition to states, cities, and counties, ethnic and cultural groups and legal practice areas also form bar associations. It may be fruitful to search online by state for a bar association that may directly relate to your issue, as they may be able to point you to free legal resources. For example, if you’ve faced discrimination based on sexual orientation in Florida, the Central Florida Gay & Lesbian Law Association may be a good place to start your search.

Remember that the ABA or your state or local bar association website is often the best place to start when wondering who to call for free legal advice.

Legal Aid Groups

There are many government-funded and non-profit organizations offering legal aid to low-income individuals. It could be general legal services at low or no cost, or help for a particular issue, such as divorce, landlord-tenant disputes, benefits claims, and so on. Another example from the District of Columbia is Bread for the City, which specializes in housing, family law, immigration, and public benefits.

Note that in criminal cases, the state is obligated to provide the defendant with an attorney if they can’t afford their own, so legal aid tends to limit its services to civil cases.

Legal Services Corporation is a national organization overseeing legal aid groups and provides a location-based search function. Another resource is LawHelp.org, which can match you with free legal aid programs and other resources.

Pro Bono Services

You may be matched with a practicing attorney serving as a volunteer, known as “pro bono” work. Rather than serving as full-time legal aid attorneys, pro bono attorneys volunteer their time as part of (or in addition to) their full-time private practice.

Consider searching for legal help using terms related to your particular issue. For example, if you have a question on immigration law, the Department of Justice’s Executive Office of Immigration Review offers a location-based search function for non-profits and pro bono attorneys offering immigration help.

If you’re having housing issues, many cities or states offer free legal advice for tenants. Los Angeles’s Stay Housed LA initiative matches tenants with legal help.

Law School Clinics

Many law schools run clinics in which law students help clients with legal issues under the supervision of a professor or practicing attorney. The ABA provides a list of schools with established public interest clinics. The benefit to school-run clinics is that schools often have the most extensive access to legal resources through libraries, legal search engines, and of course, knowledgeable professors.

DIY Websites

Perhaps you are representing yourself in a proceeding and are stuck on one question of law; advice, free of charge, is all you need. Maybe you have a simple question about voiding a contract, or how to check your driving record. There are many free legal informational websites and online dictionaries that can answer your question or provide legal forms. It may be a good idea to consult several to make sure you’re getting a reliable answer. Remember to do your research first to know what to expect when you represent yourself in court.

What to Remember About Free Legal Resources

Be careful about seeking advice from “free” sources unless they are backed by a bar association, law firm, or established non-profit organization. Generally, websites ending in .org offer more reliable information. Resources to use with caution include free online chat functions and hotlines.

Free Legal Advice Online Chat Functions

The easiest way to seek legal advice is to fire off a question in a chat box and wait for an answer. It’s usually not that simple, and not always totally free, but bar associations and law firms offer chat functions if you’re willing to search for them. For example, the Indianapolis Bar Association’s ‘Virtual Ask a Lawyer’ function promises to answer legal questions at no cost via online chat.

Many law firms offer free consultations via chat boxes on their web page if you only need an assessment of your case. Firms don’t provide useful legal advice during free consultations, however. Don’t use a chat function that asks for payment details up front, as they may charge you before rendering advice.

Legal Advice Hotlines

There are many online search results for “free legal advice hotline 24/7,” but reliable legal advice usually requires an attorney to give thought to your question, so results should not be automatic. For example, the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance returns calls to its hotline within two business days. The unfortunate truth is that sometimes you get what you pay for with unverified free legal hotlines, which may still try to charge you a fee before rendering legal advice.

Looking for Free Legal Advice?

It can be tempting to rely on fast, free resources to fix your legal problems, but it’s always helpful to have your case evaluated by an experienced attorney. Start the process of resolving your legal issues today.

Disclaimer

This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. The Law Dictionary is not a law firm, and this page does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.