Getting Legal Help in Maryland: What is it, and what does it cost?

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Are you in danger right now? If so, pick up the phone and call 9-1-1, or a Domestic Violence Service Organization.

Getting help from a professional can make a major problem or question much easier. 

Many organizations in Maryland provide legal and non-legal free, low-cost, and fee-based services. Our Legal Services Directory lists contact information for free and low-cost services, as well as reliable sources of referrals for fee-based services.  The list can be filtered by county and by the type of services available.

How much does legal help cost?

Unlike criminal cases, the Constitution does not guarantee legal help in all civil cases.  (In a few kinds of civil cases, Marylanders do have a right to a lawyer.)  Legal help, like all help from professionals, can be expensive.  But you have several options.

Free Help logo

Free help

Reduced Fee logo

Reduced-fee help

Normal Fee logo

Fee-based help

Some sources of free legal help:

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.

Public law libraries provide free legal information.

Maryland Courts Self-Help Center provides free advice from a lawyer, by phone or internet.

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.

Hotlines, often staffed or supervised by lawyers, provide legal information or advice, and can help you decide whether to represent yourself.

Legal "clinics,” let you meet with a lawyer or paralegal, ask questions and get help in person.

The Maryland Judiciary has produced an excellent series of Self-Help Videos.

Private lawyers may choose to take a case for free to help someone in need.  This is called “pro bono” service.

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.

Read more:  Limited Representation and Limited Appearances

Fees for service are negotiated between the attorney and client.

Some ways to find a private lawyer:

1. 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

People's Law Library list of Referral Services

2. 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

3. Look in the yellow pages.

4. Ask friends to recommend a lawyer they have worked with.

Do your homework:

Before hiring a lawyer, read through the How Do I section in the top left corner of this website.

Two key articles:

Tips on Hiring a Private Attorney

Negotiating the Fee

Read more: Do I Qualify for Free or Low Cost Legal Help?

 

How much help will I get?

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.
Take this quiz to help you decide:  Am I Likely to be Successful Without a Lawyer?

Legal information

Legal advice

Full representation

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 for connect you with more help.

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.

What it is:

Speaking for you, to another person or in court.

Writing legal documents for you, and filing documents in court.

"Limited scope" representation

Spectrum between brief advice and full service

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.

Who provides it:

Legal information can come from lawyers, librarians, government employees, and published resources.

Who provides it:

Legal advice comes from lawyers, and is based on listening to you and understanding your specific situation.

Who provides it:

Representation usually comes from lawyers, who must speak and act in a way that fits with your goals.

 

Other options

Mediation

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.

Non-Legal Assistance

Maryland Community Services Locator (MDCSL)
The MDCSL was developed as a centralized tool for Maryland service providers and the public to locate a comprehensive listing of community services, including maps and driving directions to locations. 

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.

Telephone: 2-1-1
info@211MD.org

Source: 

Dave Pantzer, Esq., Maryland State Law Library
No
Is this legal advice?

This site offers legal information, not legal advice.  We make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information and to clearly explain your options.  However we do not provide legal advice - the application of the law to your individual circumstances. For legal advice, you should consult an attorney.  The Maryland State Law Library, a court-related agency of the Maryland Judiciary, sponsors this site.  In the absence of file-specific attribution or copyright, the Maryland State Law Library may hold the copyright to parts of this website. You are free to copy the information for your own use or for other non-commercial purposes with the following language “Source: Maryland's People’s Law Library – www.peoples-law.org. © Maryland State Law Library, 2016.”

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