Free and Reduced-Priced Legal Services for Low-Income Texans
Hiring an attorney, for even the smallest of tasks, can be a costly endeavor. Low-income individuals who cannot afford attorneys’ fees either don’t’ get the legal representation they need, or go broke trying to pay off such fees. For them, legal representation is a necessity they simply cannot afford. Luckily, there are many public resources available in Texas for people in need of legal aide. For example, low-income individuals can obtain free or reduced-cost legal assistance from one of the state’s local non-profit legal service offices.
The key to obtaining free legal services is knowing where to look and who to contact. If you find yourself in need of a lawyer, but can’t afford one, I suggest you contact one of the legal aid organizations listed below for help with your case. To obtain free or reduced-cost legal services you must meet the organization's eligibility requirements. Each organization has different eligibility requirements and application procedures. If you find a legal service organization which may be able to assist you, I suggest you visit their website and/or contact the organization directly.
The State Bar of Texas website provides a listing of low-cost civil legal service providers in their Referral Directory for Low-Income Texans. In order to receive services from providers on this list you must meet the provider’s eligibility requirements. If you do not meet the eligibility requirements of a reduced-cost legal service provider you can use the State Bar’s Lawyer Referral Information Service. The referral service in not a pro bono or reduced cost program, however, you can get a thirty- minute consultation with an attorney for only $20.
The Texas Access to Justice Foundation (TAJF) provides funding to over 40 legal aid organizations across the state. TAJF was created by the Texas Supreme Court in the 80’s in an effort to provide all Texans with equal access to justice, regardless of their income.
The organizations which receive funding provide low-income individuals with free or reduced cost legal assistance in a wide range of civil matter including family law issues, consumer protection, probate, and housing, to name a few. Although TAJF does not directly provide legal assistance, their website does have a complete list of the organization which received funding last year. You can use the list to find an organization that helps people in your particular situation. The site also has a list of useful links that offer legal assistance at the state and national level.
Lone Star Legal Aid (Lone Star) is one of 40 organizations which receives funding from TAJF (described above). Lone Star serves 72 Texas counties in east, southeast, and northeast Texas. The organization handles legal matters in the following practice areas: family law, welfare assistance, education, housing, healthcare, consumer protection, wills, civil rights, neighborhood disputes, employment, and juvenile issues. All clients must meet Lone Star’s financial eligibility requirements, but doing so does not guarantee representation since their funds are limited. If your application is turned down due to lack of funding, Lone Star will do its best to help you, even it means you only get limited advice or representation. At the very least they will be able to refer you to another free legal service provider.
Texaslawhelp.org is a website where Texans can find information about a variety of civil legal matters. There is information about virtually every civil matter that could arise. Low-income individuals seeking free or reduced cost legal assistance can use the site to find local nonprofit legal service providers by simply entering their zip code. Locating offices in your area is a crucial step because in most cases, legal nonprofits provide services at the local level. This means that you must reside within an organization’s jurisdiction or coverage area.
The Texas Legal Services Center (TLSC) is a nonprofit that provides legal assistance and legal education to Texans through a series of public programs. TLSC currently has ten different programs, each of which has its own eligibility requirements. The programs include: Facility Victim Program, Health Law Project, Legal Hotline, Lawyer Referral Service, Texas Elder Exploitation Project, Texas Kincare Taskforce, South Central Pension Rights Project, VICARS for Crime Victims, and Veterans’ Legal Assistance Project. These programs may be of assistance if your legal matter falls within the program’s practice areas and if you meet the program eligibility requirements.
South Texas Assistance
Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid (TRLA) provides free legal services to low-income individuals in southwest Texas . TRLA also represents migrant and seasonal farm workers in seven southern states: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Kentucky. The organization handles legal matters in over 36 practice areas including housing, foreclosure, bankruptcy, public benefits, civil rights, employment, wills, border issues, human trafficking, and environmental justice. TRLA attorneys also specialize in handling issues related to the treatment of migrant farm workers. All clients must meet the organization’s income, asset, and immigration requirements. To start the application process, call 1-888-988-9996. You cannot start the process online.
Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program
The Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program provides free legal services to low-income individuals in the Houston area. The service matches low-income individuals in need of assistance with a volunteer attorney. The attorneys handle a wide range of legal matters including, but not limited to, child support, child custody, domestic violence, disaster relief assistance, bankruptcy, consumer protection, housing, foreclosure, evictions, tax issues, and probate. To obtain free legal service you must the program eligibility requirements. The website has an eligibility calculator you can use to see if you meet the financial requirements. The only way to apply for assistance is by either calling them at (713)228-0732 or by attending one of their monthly legal advice clinics. You cannot start the process online.
North Texas Assistance
Legal Aid of Northwest Texas
Legal Aid of Northwest Texas (LANWT) provides free legal assistance to low-income individuals in the Dallas- Ft. Worth area and northwest Texas. Their practice areas include family law, housing, elder law, public benefits, and education, to name a few. All clients must meet the financial eligibility requirements to receive free legal services. To apply you must visit your local LANWT office. Each office has a different application process so you must contact your local office to get more information. The LANWT staff also conducts outreach clinics in local community centers. The clinics provide information on subjects such as assistance for the homeless, parental rights, and assistance for veterans. The clinics are a valuable source of information and are freely accessible to the public. To attend a clinic you must contact your local office and schedule attendance.
City Square’s Legal Action Works (LAW) is a nonprofit that provides free legal services to low-income families in the Dallas area. LAW handles mostly family law matters such as custody, child support, and domestic violence. All clients must meet the eligibility requirements. To apply you must fill out the general law application or family law application and submit the application in person to the LAW office located at 511 N. Akard St., Dallas, Texas 75201.
Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program
The Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program (DVAP) provides low-income individuals in Dallas with free legal advice and representation in civil matters. The attorneys handle matters such as benefits, housing, family, and taxes. The program also periodically conducts legal clinics that provide low-income individuals with legal advice on a variety of subjects including family issues, estate planning, and wills.
In order to receive free representation you must meet the financial eligibility requirement (living below federal poverty guidelines). There are three ways to apply: contact DVAP, apply in person at one of the legal clinics, or contact LANWT (described above). You cannot apply online.
LegalLine--Dallas Bar Association Free Legal Advice Telephone Line
The information in this article is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this or associated pages, comments, answers, or other communications should be taken as legal advice. The information provided is not intended to create, and viewing of this information does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.
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