Last updated: October 24, 2013
The legal world can be a confusing place, so enlisting the aid of a trained professional is usually in your best interest. Unfortunately, many people cannot afford legal representation. If you are one of them, Legal Aid is a fantastic way to even the odds in your favor. Legal Aid groups in Columbus specialize in representing low-income individuals and people in particularly vulnerable positions, such as recent immigrants, senior citizens or battered women. The keys to selecting a quality Legal Aid lawyer are to contact a group that specializes in your particular legal issue and to feel comfortable speaking earnestly with the person who will be representing your interests. To make your search easier, we have compiled a list of reliable Legal Aid groups in Columbus.
The Legal Aid Society of Columbus helps low income individuals with a wide variety of civil matters, including public benefits, unemployment compensation, evictions and foreclosures, domestic violence, child custody, consumer protection, landlord/tenant matters, divorce, taxes and end-of-life planning. Even if you don’t qualify under their income guidelines, they can still refer you to an attorney at reduced fees. To see whether they can assist you with your specific legal issue, complete their confidential Access to Justice application online or call their toll-free Intake Line weekdays from 9 a.m. - 3:30 p.m (listed above). If you have doubts as to which legal aid group to contact first, Legal Aid Society of Columbus is probably your best bet.
The Ohio Legal Services Association can assist you in many civil matters, including public benefits, housing, unemployment compensation, family, consumer, education, employment, and health matters. Although they are headquartered in Columbus this group operates statewide, so use their website to find a legal aid group in your county. Or educate yourself about your specific issue with their self-help page, which is conveniently sorted into practice areas.
The Columbus Bar Association is an organization of every lawyer in the Columbus area. They generally promote the legal profession by helping the public access legal resources. Although the Bar does not provide legal aid services directly, they will gladly refer you to an appropriate legal aid group or a low-cost attorney who specializes in your particular legal issue. Also, browse their deep resource page for local info and forms, or find a lawyer today.
The Ohio Poverty Law Center was established by the Ohio Legal Services Association to address substantive issues related to poverty. This group focuses more on influencing policy makers rather than directly representing low income individuals. However, they have specific projects, like Avoid Foreclosure Ohio, that can provide essential information for certain legal issues.
CHOICES provides counseling, shelter, crisis intervention, education and legal support to central Ohio residents facing domestic violence. They also operate a 24-hour Crisis & Information Hotline, listed above. CHOICES is one of the oldest and most respected DV shelters in Ohio, so if you are in an abusive relationship don’t hesitate to contact them and get help today.
The Ohio Domestic Violence Network is a statewide coalition of domestic violence programs that provide resources, information and training to all who are affected by domestic violence. They also influence public policy decisions and support DV shelters statewide. Read up on the resources available for escaping abusive family members on their generous informational website, or find a program in your county with their referral list.
Community Refugee and Immigration Services helps refugees and immigrants become self-sufficient and successfully integrate into the Central Ohio Community. They provide employment assistance, translation, aid to senior citizens or crime victims, and legal services like help completing forms, obtaining citizenship, asylum applications and U-Visas.
Ohio Public Defender oversees legal representation to indigent individuals in criminal cases when there is a right to counsel, and in certain related civil cases where an individual’s liberty is at state, such as mental health proceedings. If you are unable to afford private counsel, they will either represent you or find a private defense attorney to represent you on Ohio’s dime.
The Capital University Law School Legal Clinic is run by law students and supervised by licensed attorneys. They provide free legal services to low income individuals on a variety of legal issues, such as criminal defense, domestic relations, landlord/tenant issues, wills and trusts, civil litigation and family law.
Moritz is Ohio State University’s law school. They offer free legal clinics for low income individuals run by students but supervised by licensed attorneys. Their clinics are grouped by specialty, including criminal defense, civil litigation, business law and juvenile matters.