Call the CARPLS Hotline
Learn about your legal issue on this site
- Find information on different areas of law. Just type your question into the search box above
- IllinoisLegalAid.org/es for information in Spanish
- Apply for legal help online
- Use form prep programs to easily complete and print your court forms
- Free and available 24/7
Going to court on your own
Going to court can be confusing and hard. It is best to find an attorney. If you must represent yourself, you still have to follow court rules. Here is some information to help prepare for court:
- Going to court on your own
- Going to court in Illinois
- Law Basics Video Series
- Automated documents
Can I get a free lawyer?
It depends on the type of help you need. Most organizations have limits on how much money a person has and what type of problem they have. They use the federal poverty guidelines to see who qualifies for their help. For example, some organizations have limits of 150% of the poverty level while others allow for more income.
Many people need legal help. Even if you qualify, you may not find a lawyer to take your case for free. You may still be able to get brief advice at a help desk or other help. Call the CARPLS Hotline at 312-738-9200 to find out. Also, many other lawyers charge very low fees.
For more information, review Finding and Accessing Free and Affordable Legal Help, which is a guide to finding free and low-cost legal services in Cook County.
What is a pro bono attorney?
A pro bono attorney is a private attorney who agrees to represent a client for free. Most pro bono attorneys work for the organizations listed on this site. To find a pro bono lawyer or free legal help, contact CARPLS or the other legal organizations listed on this site.
What types of cases do free lawyers take?
Pro bono and legal aid organizations provide free (sometimes called pro bono) legal help in many kinds of cases, including:
- Family (divorce, child custody and support, domestic violence, guardianship)
- Housing (evictions, foreclosure, condition of property)
- Consumer (bills, debt, utility shutoff, bankruptcy)
- Public Benefits (food stamps, unemployment, Social Security, Social Security disability, Medicaid, TANF)
- Immigration (citizenship, asylum, visas)
Most organizations do not take criminal cases. If you have a criminal case, you may need to hire a lawyer. Some lawyers charge low fees. You may also get a public defender.
Are there different types of free legal help?
Yes. There are different types of help that you may qualify for. Some organizations will represent you fully on your case, while others may only be able to give advice. Here is a list of the types of help you may get:
- CARPLS Hotline: Call CARPLS at 312-738-9200. CARPLS lawyers give legal advice and may refer you to an attorney to take your case.
- Court representation by attorneys: You might get a lawyer to represent you in some or all of your case for free.
- Help or advice desks: At advice desks, lawyers or staff give brief advice, information or help with forms. In Cook County, there are many Help Desks in the Courthouse.
- Walk-in clinics: Lawyers at neighborhood legal clinics usually give legal advice and might be able to take your case. See this list of Legal Clinics for many of the available clinics.
- Mediation: A mediator may be able to help you and the other party talk about ending your conflict. Call The Center for Conflict Resolution at 312-922-6464 x22.
- Online self-help tools: Our website has many resources to help you understand the law in Illinois, and represent yourself if you can't find an attorney. Type a question in the search box above to get started.
What if I can’t find a free lawyer to take my case?
If you can’t find a free lawyer, you can either pay for a lawyer or try to represent yourself. Going to court can be confusing and have long-term consequences. It is best to have a lawyer because they are trained to handle the legal system.
First, you need to decide if you should hire a lawyer. Here are some factors to help choose whether it is worth hiring a lawyer:
- How important is this issue to you?
- How much is at stake if you do not win?
- Is there someone against you in the case? If so, do they have a lawyer?
- How complicated is the legal issue?
The more important it is to you, the more you should think about getting a lawyer’s help. There are some lawyers that charge low fees.
There are many resources to help you handle simple legal issues on your own. If you decide to handle a case on your own, see the online tools offered on this site, including many free forms.
Where can I find an attorney with low fees?
The Justice Entrepreneurs Project (JEP)
JEP lawyers offer low cost services. Many offer fixed fees and flexible representation options. For example, they may charge less to help in one small part of your case that may be more complicated.
- For more information, visit The Justice Entrepreneurs Project or call 312-546-3282
The Chicago Legal Clinic
- The Chicago Legal Clinic charges clients fees depending on their income.
- For more information, visit The Chicago Legal Clinic or call 773-731-1762
The Chicago Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service
- The Lawyer Referral Services makes referrals to lawyers who practice in the appropriate area of law and who charge fees for their time and services.
- $30.00 administrative fee to the CBA for the first consultation
For more information, review Finding and Accessing Free and Affordable Legal Help.