Free Legal Advice Clinics
Some counties have free legal advice clinics where you may be able talk to a volunteer lawyer for free for 15-30 minutes. The volunteer lawyers will not
represent you for your whole case. Some of the free legal advice clinics only help with certain legal issues, and some may have income limit restrictions. To see if there is a legal advice clinic in your county that fits your situation, you can visit the MN Judicial Branch’s Legal Advice Clinics Help Topic.
Free or Low-Cost Legal Services
If you have a lower income, you may qualify for other free or low-cost legal services.
- LawHelpMN.org offers an online directory to search for free or low-cost legal services based on your location and/or legal issue.
- MN State Law Library offers multiple online directories to search for free or low-cost legal services based on your location and/or legal issue.
- Volunteer Lawyers Network (VLN) offers help with some but not all legal issues. To find out if you qualify for services, complete a Client Intake Form or call them at 612-752-6677. Intake calls are accepted Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
- Red de Abogados Voluntarios (Volunteer Lawyers Network (VLN) en inglés) ofrecen servicios en distintas áreas de la ley, pero no en todas. Para saber si cualifica para estos servicios, complete un Formulario de Admisión por internet o llameles al (612) 752-6677. Ellos aceptan llamadas de 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. lunes, miércoles, y jueves.
- Hennepin County Bar Association offers some low cost legal services, lawyer referral services to help you find a lawyer to hire, and links to some social service agencies.
- Public Defender’s Office (State of Minnesota) offers free legal representation in criminal and juvenile delinquency cases for qualifying people who have a low income.
- Criminal Defense Service Inc offers reduced rate criminal defense legal services for people who have a lower income and a case in Ramsey County.
- Neighborhood Justice Center offers reduced rate criminal defense legal services for people who have a lower income and a case in St. Paul or the East Metro area.
- The Legal Rights Center offers free criminal and juvenile defense legal services for people who have a lower income and a case in Hennepin County.
- Tubman helps people with domestic abuse and family law issues. They host family law legal advice clinics and may offer other legal services depending on your income level and the county where you live or have a case.
- Legal Corps offers free legal help for low-income small businesses & non-profits in Minnesota.
- MN Disability Law Center offers some free civil legal assistance to people with disabilities with legal issues related to their disabilities.
- Estate and Elder Law Service (Volunteers of America MN) offers reduced rate legal services for people who have a lower income. Areas of law include: trusts, estate planning, probate, powers of attorney, health care directives, guardianship, conservatorship, medical assistance planning, and some real estate.
- The Volunteers of America hosts a virtual guardianship clinic on the first Wednesday of every month from 12-2 p.m. for individuals in all MN counties. Social workers are available to talk about less restrictive alternatives to guardianship, as well as attorneys that can give legal advice. No appointments are needed, but please complete a registration form to help with planning.
- The Volunteers of America MN's Center for Excellence in Supported Decision Making offers a Guardianship Information Line as a free resource for families, individuals, and professionals to speak with a social worker about Supported Decision Making options that may be used instead of guardianship.
Finding a Lawyer to Hire
If there isn’t a legal advice clinic or low cost legal service that can help you with your situation, you may need to find and hire a lawyer. It is a good idea to talk with more than one lawyer before you decide which one to hire. Some lawyers will offer a free consultation.
You can find a lawyer by getting referrals from someone you trust. You can also find a lawyer by getting referrals from community agencies, and from Bar Associations such as:
- MN State Bar Association has an online directory of Minnesota lawyers who are members of the association. You can search for a lawyer by practice area, name, and/or location. Most of the lawyers in this directory charge regular market rate fees, but there are check boxes you can click to search for lawyers that offer: “free consultations,” "unbundled services," “flat fee services,” and "sliding scale fees. Find more information on unbundled services at MN Unbundled Law Project.
- Anoka County Bar Association has a “Membership Directory” you can use to search for a lawyer by practice area.
- Legal Assistance of Dakota County has referral staff who can help you find a lawyer who practices the kind of law you need help with.
- Minnesota Lawyer Referral and Information Service has referral staff who can help you find a lawyer who practices the kind of law you need help with. They may charge a small fee for this service.
- University of Minnesota Student Legal Service provides advice and representation in areas of law that include tenants’ rights, criminal, immigration, consumer, employment, wills, health care directives, and other miscellaneous civil matters like name changes and harassment restraining orders.
Hiring and Paying a Lawyer
Making decisions about a legal issue can often have a long-lasting financial impact. Hiring a lawyer to help you may be more affordable than you think, and it may protect you from doing something that cannot be undone.
There are different ways to pay for legal services, so when you first meet with a lawyer, you should talk about their fees and put any fee agreement in writing. This written agreement is often called a “representation agreement” or “retainer agreement.”
There are different ways legal fees may be charged.
“Limited scope or unbundled services” means that the lawyer will work on a specific task for you, and you would only pay a fee for that specific task instead of hiring them for the entire case. For example, the lawyer could review your court papers, go to court with you, or give you her expert opinion about your legal rights and options. Not all lawyers offer “limited scope” or “unbundled” services.
Depending on the type of case, you may be able to hire a lawyer on a “flat fee,” “sliding scale fee,” or “contingency fee" basis.
A “flat fee” means the lawyer will charge one fee for all of their work on the case and should tell you what the fee is before starting the work.
A “sliding scale fee” means the lawyer charges different fees depending on what your income is.
A “contingency fee” means the lawyer will represent you in the case, but you do not pay a fee for the legal services up front. Usually, the lawyer only gets paid if you succeed in your case and the payment comes from money awarded to you in the case.
An “hourly fee” means the lawyer will charge you an amount of money per hour. With hourly fees, the lawyer keeps track of all of all of the minutes they spend on your case and then bills you for that time based on their hourly rate.