At some point in our lives, many of us will need help navigating the laws that regulate our rights, relationships, and interactions with others. Starting a business? Buying a house? Dealing with workplace discrimination? These situations and more may require us to make legal decisions that could impact the trajectory of our lives and the lives of our loved ones.
However, many people don’t realize that the situation they’re facing has legal consequences. And for those who do, affording legal help can be overwhelming so they go it alone. In fact, in 2019, self-represented litigants filed about 90,000 civil cases in Illinois’ circuit courts.
So, where do you start? If you have a legal question, are in search of a lawyer, or are a lawyer looking to refer a client to free or low-cost legal assistance, there are programs across Illinois that are here to help.
Illinois Court Help
Illinois Court Help is a free, personalized service that connects courthouse patrons, lawyers, and the public with the resources and information they need to go to court in Illinois.
Users can call or text (833) 411-1121 to connect with a trained court guide who can answer questions about the court process, like how to e-file court documents and appear in court by phone or video.
Court guides don’t provide legal advice but can connect users to local legal aid and community resources that can help them solve their problem.
Illinois Free Legal Answers
The American Bar Association’s Free Legal Answers is a virtual legal advice clinic. Users can post their civil legal question and lawyers will provide basic legal advice without any expectation of long-term representation.
There is no fee for the service, which is administered by the Public Interest Law Initiative.
ILAO’s Get Legal Help
Illinois Legal Aid Online’s (ILAO) “Get Legal Help” tool guides users to the best available services or resources for their situation.
To access the best referral, ILAO will ask users questions about their legal problem, their location or the location of their legal problem, and their income. There is no fee for the service.
Illinois Legal Aid Organizations
Can’t afford legal help? Don’t let this stand in your way of obtaining legal services. Illinois’ many legal aid organizations are here to assist people who are struggling to pay for a lawyer.
A list of Illinois’ legal aid organizations can be found here: isba.org/public/cantaffordalawyer.
Lawyer Referral Services
The Illinois State Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service connects users with an attorney who provides a basic consultation at an affordable price.
To connect with a lawyer, users can call (800) 922-8757 with their legal questions. A referral clerk will ask for some basic information (name, address, and a brief description of legal need) and refer users to a lawyer in the geographic area requested.
Mention that you were referred by the Lawyer Referral Service and receive a 30-minute consultation for no more than $25.
The Chicago Bar Association also offers a referral service for those seeking a lawyer in Cook County and the surrounding suburbs. Users can call (312) 554-2001 or get a referral online. The lawyer will collect $30 for an initial consultation.
Representing yourself in court and need help? The Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice (ATJ Commission) provides self-represented litigants and limited English proficient litigants with legal information, court forms, and referrals to free or low-cost legal help.
Information covered on the ATJ Commission’s website includes how to start a case (like a name change or a divorce), respond to a case that was filed against you, and appeal a case. The website doesn’t provide legal advice.
The Illinois Supreme Court also provides additional resources for people without a lawyer: https://www.illinoiscourts.gov/self-help
Comment below to let us know how you’ve used these and other programs to resolve your legal issues or those of your clients. Don’t let cost or unfamiliarity with the legal system stand in the way of getting the advice and resolution you deserve.
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