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Topics on this page:
- How much does legal help cost?
- How much help will I get?
- Other Options
- Video: Finding Legal Help in a Civil Case
Types of Help
Unlike criminal cases, the Constitution does not guarantee legal help in all civil cases. Legal help, like all help from professionals, can be expensive. But you have several options.
Getting help from a professional can make a major problem or question much easier.
Some sources of free legal help include:
- The Legal Services Directory lets you search for organizations that help people in your county, and with your type of issue. Includes links to online intake forms and programs.
- Public law libraries provide free legal information.
- Maryland Courts Self-Help Center provides free advice from a lawyer, by phone or chat.
- District Court Self-Help Centers provide free, in-person advice from a lawyer.
- Self-Help Services help you represent yourself in court. Often a lawyer is available to provide brief legal advice.
- Family Law Self-Help Centers let you talk with someone about the forms you need to fill out.
- Legal "clinics,” let you meet with a lawyer or paralegal, ask questions and get help in person.
- Self-Help Videos created by the Maryland Judiciary
- Pro Bono service, private lawyers may choose to take a case for free to help someone in need.
- Even if your income is higher than the cut-off for certain free programs, it can be hard to afford legal fees. Some lawyers offer reduced-fee services, based on your individual circumstances.
- Reduced-Fee Service Providers
- "Limited Scope" representation: It’s always good to have more help, rather than less. However, in some situations, a lawyer may be willing to help you with part of a problem or case instead of the entire process.
Fees for service are negotiated between the attorney and client.
Some ways to find a private lawyer:
- Call a Referral Service
- You will briefly describe your situation, and the service will refer you to a lawyer who practices in the required field. The service may offer a 30-minute initial talk with the lawyer. This may cost a modest fee, perhaps $25 or $50.
- Maryland State Bar Association's list of Referral Services
- Call a Bar Association.
- Some special-interest bar associations also offer lawyer referrals, or publish directories of their members.
- Maryland State Bar Association's list of County and Specialty Bar Associations
- Ask friends to recommend a lawyer they have worked with.
Things to consider:
- Tips on Hiring a Private Attorney and Negotiating the Fee
- Review the "How do I..." section of this website for information on how to manage your case and work with an attorney.
There are three kinds of legal help that people often get: legal information, legal advice, and full representation. Legal information and advice can help a great deal, even if you will represent yourself in court, or don't have to go to court.
You generally have the right to represent yourself in court. However, in some cases, it is important to have a lawyer's help.
What it is:
- Explaining what the law says, what it means, and how the legal system works.
- Providing lists of the legal options for people in common situations.
- Providing step-by-step instructions for how to get things done in court.
- Providing forms that help you explain your situation.
- Providing referrals to connect you with more help.
Who provides it: Legal information can come from lawyers, librarians, government employees, and published resources.
What it is:
- Giving predictions about what will happen if you make certain choices.
- Giving opinions about what choices you should make.
- Writing legal documents for you to use in court or out of court.
Who provides it: Legal advice comes from lawyers, and is based on listening to you and understanding your specific situation.
What it is:
- Speaking for you and represent your interests to another person or in court.
- Writing legal documents for you, filing documents with the court, and appearing on your behalf before the court.
Who provides it: Representation usually comes from lawyers, who must speak and act in a way that fits with your goals.
"Limited scope" representation
Between legal advice and full representation, there is a range of options. At the low end, brief legal advice involves a short conversation with a lawyer. This can take place in person, by phone, or on the internet.
In Maryland, you and your lawyer can agree to share the legal tasks. This is called "limited scope" representation.
You can even agree for the lawyer to appear in court for just part of your case. This is called a “limited appearance.” This can be one more way of getting some help, even if you cannot afford to pay for full representation.
Mediation is a process in which a trained neutral person, a “mediator,” helps people communicate with one another and reach agreements that satisfy everyone’s needs. Mediation can be a lower cost solution to resolving a dispute in many situations.
2-1-1 Maryland, Inc.
2-1-1 is an easy to remember, toll free telephone number that provides comprehensive information about community services, crisis intervention, referrals to programs, and volunteerism. Callers can dial 2-1-1 on their phones 24 hours a day, every day of the year. 2-1-1 can link people to resources in 150+ languages. If you call 2-1-1, you will speak with trained specialists who listen as you explain your situation, work with you to assess your problems and needs, and help you find answers to your questions.
Maryland Access Point
The Maryland Access Point (MAP) centers were established as the single entry point for individuals seeking long term support services. Maryland's 20 local MAP sites provide individual, person centered counseling to consumers seeking information, referral, and program support for long term services.
Finding Legal Help in a Civil Case from the Maryland Courts