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Where can I get free legal advice?

Free legal advice is available online and through local, regional and national agencies.

The Internet is a goldmine of free legal advice. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
The Internet is a goldmine of free legal advice.

Though the stereotype of lawyers as money-grubbing sharks may not be entirely fair, the reality is that fees for lawyers, courts and other legal aid can be exorbitant. Yet, free legal advice is available - all you need is a telephone or an Internet connection.

Free Legal Advice Online

The Internet is a goldmine of free legal advice, with a vast number of Web sites providing legal forms, legal information, attorney directories and, best of all, free legal advice. Some of these sites, such as FreeAdvice.com and TheLaw.com, provide active forums that allow users to post questions and receive free legal advice from real lawyers.

If you're a small businessperson looking for free legal advice, you'll want to check out the government's Web site for small businesses, which hosts a wealth of resources about small business - including information on business law. Other small-business resources such as Entrepreneur.com have even more legal information for the small-business owner.

For even more free legal advice online, log on to the American Bar Association's Web site, which provides searchable state directories for free legal aid, legal hotlines and pro bono lawyers.

Of course, you should always be careful about who you listen to online, especially when it comes to legal advice. Discussion boards and Internet articles are helpful, but they do not take the place of bona fide legal advice from a practicing lawyer.

Legal Hotlines

Online research is an excellent first step, but you may reach a point when you'd like to talk to a real live human being. No worries: Free legal advice from a real person is only a phone call away. "Legal hotlines," staffed and operated by a number of private and governmental organizations, provide a wide range of free legal advice and support over the phone.

If you have a question about immigration, divorce or tenant rights, there's a good chance a legal hotline is available to answer your question. Bear in mind, though, that many hotlines are only available to certain demographics, such as senior citizens or low-income families. An excellent directory for legal hotlines can be found at LegalHotlines.org, sponsored by the AARP Foundation.

Legal Aid Groups

If you can't find the legal advice you're looking for online or through one of the hotlines, there may be a local legal aid group that can help you. Legal aid groups, which provide free legal advice to low-income families and individuals, exist in just about every major metropolitan area. Many of these legal aid groups are overseen by the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), a government organization that coordinates a network of 900 free legal aid offices nationwide. Check out the LSC Web site or contact them at (202) 295-1500 for more information.

Free Legal Representation

Sometimes advice, helpful as it is, isn't enough. It may turn out that you need real legal help, including legal representation before a court. Even if you aren't involved in a court case, but still need legal help - such as in immigration matters - you may be able to find free legal representation. In fact, many of the sources which provide free legal advice, such as legal aid groups, offer free representation to low-income families and individuals. Contact the Legal Services Corporation or check out FindLaw's guide to pro bono legal help for more information.

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