Help! I Need a Lawyer!
Updated April 30, 2014.
Prepared by Layna Moysich, law librarianship intern.
This guide provides information about resources for finding free and reduced-cost legal services as well as resources for hiring a private attorney. This guide will be especially helpful to Washington residents and residents of the Seattle area.
Many free or low-cost legal services are offered only to people who are low-income. However, the meaning of “low-income” varies for different programs. Depending on the program, exceptions to income requirements may exist for certain groups, such as seniors or people with disabilities.
The only way to be sure of eligibility is to contact the program directly.
- Matches clients with appropriate free or reduced-cost legal services programs for problems that affect basic needs such as housing, income, medical care and family safety
- Criminal law representation not provided
- Clients may need to be low-income, unless they are seniors
- In most counties, persons who are 60 and over will be eligible regardless of their finances
- In King County, call 2-1-1
- Outside King County call 1-888-201-1014
- Online application available
- Allows users to search their comprehensive database of free or low-cost legal services, by county and issue
- Includes resources on legal rights, printable self-help packets with legal forms, videos, self-help forms, and more
Moderate means programs serve people who might earn too much to be considered eligible for low-income programs. (However, as noted above, a variety of factors may determine eligibility for a low-income program, so it is always wise to contact the program before ruling it out.) The Washington State Bar Association offers several programs.
Provides homeowners with foreclosure prevention information and resources through a partnership of the WSBA and the Northwest Justice Project
Eligible persons: Low- and moderate-income homeowners
Call 1-800-606-4819 to see if you are eligible
Services: This free referral service connects income-eligible persons to private lawyers who offer reduced-fee assistance. Once the free referral is made, the attorney’s fees will be discounted 25% to 75%, depending on the client’s income. The referrals are a program of the Washington State Bar Association, linked on their website under “Resources for the Public.”
Referrals are made for the following issue areas
- Consumer law
- Family law
- Housing law
Eligible persons: Clients must have income 200-400% of the Federal Poverty Level
Contact via website
King County Bar Association, Neighborhood Legal Clinics
- Brief advice only: Free 30 minute consultation with an attorney at 37 locations across King County.
- Attorneys determine whether the client has a legal problem, suggest possible options, and provide appropriate referrals to free or for-hire legal services-- they do not provide representation
Advice offered on these issue areas
- Criminal records
- General legal advice
- Public benefits
Eligible persons: Residents of King County
- Appointments (206) 267-7070
- Clinic locations and hours
Law School Clinics
Most of the University of Washington School of Law clinics accept clients by referral only, but members of the public may contact the following clinics directly to inquire about free legal representation:
Federal Tax Clinic (disputes w/ IRS)
Entrepreneurial Law Clinic (business law)
Innocence Project (post-conviction representation)
University of Washington, Student Legal Services
- UW-Seattle students only
- Students must be currently-enrolled
- Students must meet other requirements as applicable
- (206) 543-6486
- Drop in at HUB 306
King County Bar Association, Lawyer Referral Service
- Provides referrals to private attorneys. A referral fee of $10 - $45 applies, varying depending on the type of case
- Referral results in a free, 30-minute consultation with an attorney who meets KCBA standards
- Referrals are for individuals who wish to HIRE an attorney at regular rates, not for those looking to receive free or reduced-cost legal services
The first guide introduces you to several main directories of private attorneys and provides links to tips on how to find an excellent lawyer, how to work with a lawyer, and what to expect from the lawyer-client relationship. The second guide shows you how to use resources at the Gallagher Law Library to locate and check the disciplinary records of attorneys in King County and Washington State.