North Carolina lawyers give back to the community, state and profession by providing many pro-bono or low-cost legal services to our citizens. Here are a few of them that offer free or cost-efficient venues to ask for direction on important legal matters. I have had so many positive comments about a previous column I wrote some time ago about these services, I offer them again with some additional updates.
1. Our friend, “Ask Sam,” of the Journal staff, is very good at spotting purely legal questions and asking a local lawyer to provide some helpful free direction to our citizens in his much-read column. (Email ASKSAM@wsjournal.com.) Any number of people comment on the value of this service the Journal provides.
2. North Carolina Bar Association (NCBA) Lawyer Referral Line. A lawyer can often refer a citizen to a non-profit agency that can help at little or no cost. Sometimes, the problem requires assisting the citizen by a lawyer making a quick but clarifying call, or a lawyer providing important direction about next steps.
To reach the Lawyer Referral Service by phone, please call 800-662-7660, or 919-677-8574. If you use the LRS, the cost is $50 for an initial 30-minute consultation with the lawyer. Or, you can seek a referral online at www.ncba.org/publicresources/lawyer-referral-service/ or search NCBA lawyer referral service.
An experienced lawyer can often direct a caller to other friendly and low-cost venues to resolve a smaller problem, such as the local Better Business Bureau or a non-profit mediation group. Contact Mediation Services of Forsyth at 336-724-2870 to discuss your options. Our BBB has dispute-resolution options, too, which help to sort out issues (336-725-8348; www.bbb.org).
3. Lawyers on the Line Service pairs citizens with volunteers who provide legal advice and brief service over the phone. Private practice lawyers partner with Legal Aid of North Carolina to provide free legal services for limited legal matters for financially qualified clients.
4. The Volunteer Lawyer Program, another Legal Aid service, assigns volunteer lawyers to Legal Aid citizens who need extended service, such as representation in court or at administrative hearings and more.
If you need help from either of these programs call Legal Aid’s helpline at 866-219-5262 or visit its website, www.legalaidnc.org.
5. NC Free Legal Answers. This is a NCBA program that provides financially eligible citizens online access to lawyers in North Carolina. This web-based portal (nc.freelegalanswers.org) allows financially eligible North Carolinians to ask volunteer lawyers legal questions about many common areas of the civil (versus criminal) law, such as family law, veteran issues, wills and inheritance, and more.
6. North Carolina Lawyers for Entrepreneurs Assistance Program (NC LEAP).
In this NCBA program, volunteer lawyers provide free intellectual property and business-related legal assistance to low-wealth entrepreneurs and inventors. (NC LEAP does not provide assistance with litigation matters, however.) To apply for free legal services through NC LEAP, visit https://www.ncbarfoundation.org/our-work/nc-leap/https://www.ncbarfoundation.org/our-work/nc-leap/.
7. Elder Law Clinic. Under the supervision of a lawyer, law students at Wake Forest University School of Law provide free legal services to the community in Forsyth and surrounding counties. A client of the Elder Law Clinic must be at least 60 years of age, have an income of less than $2,000 per month for a household of one, and less than $2,700 per month for a household of two.
For more information go to: http://elder-clinic.law.wfu.edu/, or search “WFU Legal Clinic Elderly.” Phone: 336-758-5061.
8. Ask your lawyer to provide a little courtesy direction from time to time. It is the right thing for them to do. If doctors and physician assistants do this on some routine matters, your lawyer should, too, don’t you think? You will be pleasantly surprised by your lawyer’s willingness to help, if you ask. Remember: An informed choice is a smart choice.