Are you looking for free or low cost legal help in Illinois?

by Timothy Deffet

Folks, many people do not realize that there is significant legal help available for those who cannot afford a lawyer. These pro bono services may be offered for free, or at low cost, to you if you qualify. Some of the clinics that offer these services may ask you to undergo a quick financial analysis first to see if you are eligible under their guidelines. Many of them provide general legal services but many can be specific to certain problems that may arise in your life.

The Circuit Court of Cook County has a pretty comprehensive list to start your search. Click here for a link. These include legal organizations such as The Chicago Coalition for the HomelessLambda Legal Council, which advocates for gay, lesbian and transgender rights, the Aids Legal Council of ChicagoLegal Assistance Foundation of Chicago, and Access Living, an organization that assists individuals with disabilities. In addition, Prairie State Legal Services has several offices throughout the state of Illinois where you can look for legal assistance.

If you are uncertain where to turn, sometimes contacting CARPLS will be a good place to start. CARPLS describes itself as a “legal  triage” center where people can call to have their legal needs assessed. CARPLS will then get them to the right attorney to handle their specific issue.

World Relief Chicago is listed on the Cook County website and assists refugees and immigrants to become self-sufficient in the U.S.

I attended The John Marshall Law School and one of my personal favorites in the fight against fair housing discrimination is The John Marshall Fair Housing Clinic. The federal Fair Housing Act  prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, handicap (physical or mental) and familial status. Nearly every state, as well as many counties and municipalities, have some type of human rights act that prohibits such housing discrimination. Many states and localities include additional categories of protection, such as: marital status,source of income, sexual orientation, parental status, military discharge status and age. I suggest contacting them if you feel you have been discriminated against. I volunteered as a law student there and the students and professors running the Clinic are truly top notch. In fact, many are national experts.

If you are a U.S. veteran and are seeking help I suggest contacting The John Marshall Law School Veterans Legal Support Center and Clinic. They specialize in appealing denied veteran’s benefits claims, including service-connected benefits, pension benefits, survivor benefits, and education benefits. The VLSC will not begin work on an initial claim that has not been filed or is currently pending before the Department of Veterans Affairs. To receive assistance in filing an initial claim for benefits please contact a Veterans’ Service Organization.

Many people that get injured at work, or in a car accident or trip and fall, think that they have to pay legal fees up front to pursue a case against the person that injured them. However, the truth is that most attorneys do these cases on what is called a contingency fee basis where they will only take a percentage fee of what is recovered. If they do not recover anything, no fee is owed.  If you have a case like this, feel free to contact me at 773-627-4719. Also, look at my previous blog posts, Tim’s Ten Tips On What to Do After A Car Accident in Chicago, and What Should I Do If I Have an Illinois Work Accident. It is important to note this is not considered pro bono legal service.

Last, if you are a renter in Chicago, I would be remiss not to mention the Metropolitan Tenants Organization (“MTO”). Their mission is to educate, organize and empower tenants to have a voice in the decisions that affect the affordability and availability of decent and safe housing. They have a Renters’ Rights Hotline at 773-292-4988. I have previous experience volunteering for the hotline and I will tell you that the staff and attorneys working there are extremely knowledgeable and care deeply for the people they are trying to help. Further, they teach tenants how to take the law in their own hands and organize to improve the conditions of their apartment buildings.

Although I have tried to be somewhat comprehensive in this article there are too many available resources out there to list them all. The point is, don’t lose hope, keep trucking and try to find the help you deserve, it is out there!

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