Going to Court

Finding a lawyer

It's always useful to have a lawyer—and sometimes you really need one. However, finding and paying a lawyer can seem overwhelming or impossible. Learn how to find a lawyer that is right for you, including through legal aid and lawyer referral services. 

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Understanding the Basics

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Signs that it's important to have a lawyer

It can seem hard to find a lawyer that fits your problem and budget. However, there are times when it is especially important to hire a lawyer. You should do what you can to get a lawyer if:

  • The case is complicated. Some legal issues, like child custody cases, can be very difficult to handle on your own. 
  • You have a huge amount to win or lose. For instance, you could lose access to your children, your house or a lot of money.
  • You are unlikely to be able to agree with the other side. If you can find middle ground by negotiating with the other side, that can be a good solution without a lawyer. On the other hand, if the other side already has a lawyer, that could mean that you should get one too.
  • You are getting divorced and you have experienced domestic violence or the divorce could affect your immigration status. In these cases, you may be able to get help for free through legal aid.  

In criminal cases, you have a "right to counsel." That means you have a right to have a lawyer, even if you can't afford to pay one. In this case, you can ask for a public defender or court appointed counsel.  

In civil cases, like divorce or foreclosure, you do not have this same "right to counsel." In this case, low-income people can find help from legal aid. There are also bar association lawyer referral services that can connect anyone with a lawyer to hire.

Where to find a lawyer

There are many ways to find a lawyer to help you with your civil legal problems in Ohio. On this site we can help you find: 

  • Legal aid. Legal aids are non-profit law firms that provide free legal help to low-income people. When you contact legal aid they will ask you some questions about yourself and your problem. Then they will let you know if they are able to help or if can they connect you with a pro bono attorney. Unfortunately, legal aid has limited resources and cannot always help everyone. 

    To find your local legal aid, use our Find Your Legal Aid tool or go to Legal Help and Lawyers.
  • Bar association lawyer referral services. Bar associations in Ohio often run "lawyer referral services." This means that they can get some basic information about your problem and use that to connect you with one of their members. This can be helpful because, like doctors, lawyers can specialize in certain types of law. Some of these services even offer a set, low-cost fee for your first consultation with the lawyer. That way, you can find out if the lawyer can help you and how much it would cost to hire them for your case. These fees are usually under $50. 

    To find bar association lawyer referral services in your area, go to Legal Help and Lawyers.
  • Court self-help centers. In some parts of Ohio, courts have opened "self-help centers." If you can't get help from legal aid or cannot afford to hire a lawyer, they can give you basic information about the law and the legal process at that court. In some self-help centers, you can even get limited legal advice from a lawyer.

    To find out if your court has a self-help center, go to Government and Community Resources.  

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