Engaging the services of a lawyer can prove costly, but this doesn't necessarily need to be the case. Depending on the level of legal assistance you need, there is a range of ways to obtain free legal advice in Los Angeles.
Just the Facts
Before looking for a lawyer or seeking out legal aid, take the initiative and learn the basics of California law for yourself. Of course, you're not going to set out to pass the bar, but it helps to go into a situation as armed with information as possible.
In some cases, of smaller claims, knowing the law may be all you need. You may be able to settle or resolve your dispute out of court.
One of the most useful open legal literature resources in LA is The Law Library, which happens to be the second largest public law library in the United States. Its main focus is California law. Within its stacks, you'll find codes, cases, legal encyclopedias, appellate briefs, legislative history information and more.
Its main branch is in the Los Angeles Civic Center. However, The Law Library also has branch collections in courthouses in Santa Monica, Long Beach, Norwalk, Pomona, and Torrance. It operates library partnerships with the Compton Library Pasadena Public Library, Lancaster Regional Library and the LA Public Library's Van Nuys Branch.
In addition, the library provides two useful remote services for question answering: you can email a librarian or connect with a librarian via real-time chat on your computer.
Government Legal Assistance in Los Angeles
If going to court or mediating through attorneys becomes a necessity, and you can't afford it, fear not, you may be able to obtain legal aid through a government-funded organization.
The Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) is predominantly funded by a nonprofit established by Congress to deliver civil legal assistance nationwide.
Areas of law covered are family law, housing and eviction, home ownership and individual rights, community and economic development, government benefits, immigration, and employment law.
Its central office is located in Downtown LA. Its six neighborhood offices service the following areas: East Los Angeles, the West Side, South Los Angeles, Pico-Union, Koreatown and Long Beach. In addition, the LAFLA also staffs Self Help Legal Access Centers in courthouses in Long Beach, Santa Monica, Torrance and Inglewood.
At these centers, you can obtain information about court procedures, get one-on-one assistance, attend a legal workshop, obtain required court forms, and get help reviewing court forms after they've been filled out (from trained legal professionals).
Free Monthly Legal Clinic
On the first Saturday of each month, the Beverly Hills Bar Association hosts its Barristers Free Monthly Legal Clinic. During the event--which takes places between 10 a.m. and noon--volunteer attorneys from the association answer questions on a variety of topics such as landlord/tenant disputes, wills and trusts, and legal issues facing businesses. The clinic is currently being held at La Cienega Park (La Cienega at Olympic, 8400 Gregory Way).
For more information visit the Beverly Hills Bar Association website.
Pro Bono Legal Help
The term pro bono means 'free legal work done by an attorney for indigent clients and religious, charitable, and other nonprofit entities.' Obviously, this sort of assistance is given at the discretion of the attorney. However, it's nice to know that the American Bar Association has become a champion of pro bono legal services.
In that vein, when looking for a lawyer willing to do pro bono work, the best place to start is the American Bar pro bono directory for California.
In Los Angeles, the professional organization lists some of the following pro bono agencies: