Last updated: November 1, 2013
It’s a frustrating position to need legal help when you are short on cash. Fortunately, there are a number of agencies in Columbia that you can turn to for free assistance, provided you meet specific income requirements. Even if you make too much to qualify, many of these organizations have free brochures, pamphlets, and even videos that you can use to help yourself. Here is a list of some places you may wish to contact when you need free or low cost legal aid in The City of Dreams.
South Carolina Legal Services (SCLS) may be able to assist you with your civil legal matter for free if you are a low income resident of South Carolina. To start the process, call the intake line at (803) 744-9430 on Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. You will be screened for eligibility, both from an income perspective (generally you can make no more than 125% of the federal poverty level to qualify), and type of legal issue (SCLS handles only certain non-fee-generating civil matters). You might want to check out their self-help legal library, their list of Frequently Asked Questions or one of their legal information brochures. Other programs offered by SCLS include the Low Income Taxpayers Clinic and Foreclosure Assistance.
The South Carolina Bar offers a variety of public services. For one, they operate free legal clinics on issues such as family law, wills and estates, landlord/tenant, consumer law, real estate, and end of life issues throughout the state on an on-going basis. In addition, they operate a Pro Bono Program where you can be connected with a volunteer lawyer who may handle your family law, housing, bankruptcy, or probate case. In order to qualify you must meet federal poverty guidelines. Call 888-346-5592 to see whether you qualify. If you or your spouse are filing for divorce and you would like to represent yourself, check here for instructions and forms on how to proceed. If you are interested in information about expungements or pardons, you may wish to consult these Frequently Asked Questions. In addition to the above, the South Carolina Bar also operates a Legal Referral Service, which will connect you with a participating attorney for a ½ hour consultation for a fee not to exceed $50. If you decide to retain the attorney further, additional fees as agreed upon between the two of you will apply.
Although this organization focuses more on impact legislation and policy than direct individual representation, they do offer significant legal information to the public by way of brochures, pamphlets, flyers and power-point presentations. Check out this section of their website for information regarding consumer issues, family law, education, healthcare, housing, immigration, public benefits and more.
If you need criminal defense and meet the income guidelines, the Public Defenders may be able to assist you. Here are some Frequently Asked Questions about the public defender system in South Carolina.