Free Legal Help in Maryland
If you have low income or no income, you may be eligible for free legal help.
Most of the programs in Maryland use one of two income levels to determine if you are eligible for services.
- A number based on the federal poverty guidelines. The guidelines are a set of numbers published annually by the federal government. They are used by many benefit programs as one of several factors to determine whether you are financially eligible to receive help. In certain cases, a program may use the guidelines as a base for setting their own guidelines. For example, the Legal Aid Bureau uses the figure of 125% of the poverty guidelines as part of its decision to decide if you can receive free legal help. Since many other factors are also used and sometimes the financial guidelines are higher, if your income is near the guidelines limit or even twice as much, you should still call for help.The current poverty guidelines can be found at the Department of Health and Human Services website.
- The Maryland Legal Services Corporation(MLSC) makes grants to nonprofit organization in the state to provide for legal services for those of low income. MLSC requires that a client's income not exceed 50% of Maryland's median family income.
Free Legal Help Outside Maryland
You can search by state to find a non-profit offering free legal help to low-income persons in every state. The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) website allows you to search only for its grantees. The Legal Services Corporation is an independent federal agency funded by Congress. LSC funds legal services providers nationwide to provide free legal assistance to low-income people.
If you need advice and are trying to figure out if you need an attorney, try calling a Maryland legal hotline. The legal hotlines provide information, from an attorney or a paralegal under an attorney’s supervision, over the telephone to people who are filing a case without a lawyer. The hotlines can help you decide if you should represent yourself in your case, and can also help you complete certain statewide domestic relations forms.
See all Legal Hotlines.
Low Cost Legal Help
Civil Justice Inc. (410-706-0174; 1-866-48CIVIL) is a Maryland non-profit corporation that maintains the Civil Justice Network, a free lawyer referral service. Clients are referred to Maryland solo and small firm attorneys who provide legal services at reduced costs in a broad range of practice areas.
Most of the county bar associations with lawyer referral services have reduced fee panels. When you call the county bar association for a referral, ask if it has a reduced fee panel. Most reduced fee panels are based on income, but some are based on case type. For example, the Prince Georges County Bar Association has a reduced fee panel for criminal cases, but not for domestic. For the reduced fee panel based on income, each individual bar association has its own eligibility screening to determine if your income entitles you to the reduced fee.
Remember that the attorneys reduce their fees based on their “usual” rate and that the “usual” rate will vary among attorneys. For example, one attorney’s usual rate may be less than another attorney’s reduced rate.