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.


Free & Reduced-Cost Legal Programs

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.

CLEAR Clear Logo

Services

  • 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

Eligible persons

  • 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

Contact

  • In King County, call 2-1-1
  • Outside King County call 1-888-201-1014
  • Online application available


Washington Law Help

  • 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

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Moderate Means Programs

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.

Home Foreclosure Legal Aid Project

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

Moderate Means Program

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

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Programs for Any Income Level

King County Bar Association, Neighborhood Legal ClinicsKCBAC Clinic Logo

Services

  • 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

  • Consumer
  • Criminal records
  • Estate
  • Family
  • General legal advice
  • Housing
  • Public benefits

Eligible persons: Residents of King County

Contact

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:

Mediation Clinic

Federal Tax Clinic (disputes w/ IRS)

Entrepreneurial Law Clinic (business law)

Innocence Project (post-conviction representation)

University of Washington, Student Legal Services

Services: Free consultations and legal representation in selected issue areas

Eligible persons

  • UW-Seattle students only
  • Students must be currently-enrolled
  • Students must meet other requirements as applicable

Contact

  • (206) 543-6486
  • Drop in at HUB 306

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Finding a Private Attorney

King County Bar Association, Lawyer Referral Service

Services

  • 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

See also the Gallagher guides on How Do I Find and Work with an Attorney? and People-Finding.

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.

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