Obtaining Legal Help | Sojourners

Obtaining Legal Help

A lawyer is a person who is needed at some time in most everyone’s life. An unfortunate thing about the American legal system is that it is so intricate and complicated that it is essential to have a professional who knows the language and the unwritten rules (i.e., a lawyer) in order to protect one’s rights. There are two major problems with meeting this need--finding a lawyer you can trust and one that you can afford.

Now, the ideal solution to this problem is to know a brother or sister in your area who is a lawyer. Not everyone is afforded this luxury, which is why I’m writing this column.

First of all, it’s important to know when you require legal assistance. It’s essential to have a lawyer if you are arrested for an alleged crime, even if it isn’t serious. If someone files suit against you or if you are involved in an injury or property damage claim, you’ll need a lawyer’s counsel. Also, when you sign a contract, deed, will, or other sort of legal paper, or when you buy or sell real estate, you’ll find a lawyer is important.

If you have lots of money, finding a lawyer you can afford isn’t a problem. Your local bar association should have a lawyer referral service. If you are poor you’ll have to look to your neighborhood Legal Aid Society. Check your phone book for the nearest office or call your county bar association. These offices take civil cases only (no criminal cases), and you must be genuinely poor to qualify for such aid. Also, if your case goes to court, you may have to pay the court fees. If they can’t help you, they may be able to refer you to someone else who can. Catholic Charities also has a legal aid program.

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