The Common Law

Alternative Options for Legal Help

I have a problem and want to know my legal rights. I tried free legal aid and they said my income is too high to receive free help, but I don't have enough money to hire a lawyer to help me with my problem. Are there any other options for me?

This problem is all too common. As last week's "Common Law" column discussed, when many low-income individuals look to options for free legal aid, they are often disappointed to find out that they may not qualify for assistance. The threshold income level to qualify for most legal aid programs is so low (below 125% of the federal poverty level, in most cases), many people find themselves unable to obtain free legal aid but without the money to hire a lawyer to help with basic legal problems.

People that find themselves in this situation may want to look for alternative options to speak with an attorney. Here are a few options in Central Texas:

Volunteer Legal Services of Central Texas partners with Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid to hold free advice clinics every Monday and Wednesday night at local middle schools. Advice is given only on civil, not criminal, matters. Check out the following website for more specific information: www.vlsoct.org/services/advice_clinics.htm.

The Austin Young Lawyers Association and Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas sponsor The LegalLine Program, which allows the public to call and speak with attorneys for free legal advice to simple questions. The LegalLine (472-8303) is open for calls on the first Tuesday of each month between 5:30pm and 7:30pm.

The Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas is a nonprofit, public-service organization that specializes in matching people with legal problems with lawyers who can help them. Call LRS (472-8303) and give a brief explanation of your situation, and LRS will refer you to a lawyer in your geographic vicinity who has indicated an interest in handling your issue. You will get an initial half-hour consultation with the lawyer at a cost of $20. You can then decide if you want to hire that attorney.

Please submit column suggestions, questions, and comments to thecommonlaw@austinchronicle.com. Submission of potential topics does not create an attorney-client relationship, and any information submitted is subject to being included in future columns.

Johns, Marrs, Ellis. & Hodge LLP, www.jmehlaw.com.

The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or www.austinlrs.com.

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