Last updated: October 25, 2013
Trying to find legal help when you are trying just to make ends meet can be a daunting task. Fortunately, there are many agencies in Seattle that can help you for free or low cost, particularly if you meet income eligibility guidelines. So whether you need assistance with a landlord/tenant issue, getting your unemployment benefits reinstated, filing bankruptcy, or some other matter, we have compiled a list of agencies and organizations that may be able to help you. Keep in mind that most of the non-profit legal aid centers can assist with civil (but not criminal) matters. If you have been charged with a criminal offense, you should start by contacting the King County Department of Public Defense.
Note: The King County Bar Association (KCBA) Pro Bono Association provides a variety of options to help you with your civil legal issues. They also have Neighborhood Legal Clinics, they offer residents of King County free half hour legal consultations regarding any civil legal issue. To make an appointment at one of the general clinics, call 206-267-7070 Tuesday through Thursday between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. They also have specialty legal clinics focusing on issues such as civil rights, domestic violence, immigration and more. To set up appointments for these clinics, refer to the numbers and instructions listed here. In addition to the clinics, KCBA’s Volunteer Legal Services program offers direct representation to low-income individuals in a variety of legal areas.
Note: Northwest Justice Project (“NJP”) is Washington state’s publicly funded legal aid program. They maintain a free legal resource website which provides printable self-help packets, legal information, forms and instructions. In addition, if you need to speak to an attorney, NJP operates the “CLEAR” (Coordinated Legal Education Advice and Referral) intake and referral hotline which “serves as the statewide, centralized point of access for clients seeking free legal help, including advice, education, limited legal services, self-help materials and, where available, referrals for further representation.” Inside King County call 211 Monday through Friday 8 am to 6 pm to access the CLEAR services. Refer here for more information regarding getting legal help through NJP
Note: The Moderate Means Program through the Washington State Bar Association (WSBA) is designed to connect attorneys with individuals with family, consumer or housing law needs whose incomes are 200-400% of the Federal Poverty Level. Volunteer law students from Gonzaga University, University of Washington and Seattle University conduct the initial intake interviews and refer when appropriate to participating lawyers. You and the attorney will negotiate the final fee, but the program suggests that fees be reduced on a sliding scale basis (25%-75% reduction) based on your income level. Refer to the list of Frequently Asked Questions for additional information.
Note: Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) notes that it “is the only organization in Washington State dedicated solely to strengthening the rights and well being of low-income immigrants and refugees.” If you meet their eligibility requirements, contact NWIRP by telephone (do not drop in), and they may be able to assist you with citizenship, asylum, domestic violence issues, and/or family-based immigration. If you are a detained immigrant or have a loved one who is, you may wish to refer to NWIRP’s Guide for Detained Immigrants for information on ways to defend your case.
Note: The Unemployment Law Project (ULP) provides free legal help to Washington State residents who have been denied unemployment benefits or whose award of benefits is being challenged. Their primary services are representing individuals at administrative hearings and offering advice and information through the telephone helpline.
Note: Columbia Legal Services (CLS) notes that it “concentrates mostly on critical legal problems affecting large numbers of low-income people,” but that it does “represent some clients on individual legal problems.” Areas of law CLS is involved in include employment, housing, consumer abuse, education, disability and senior law. Most clients are referred to CLS by other organizations – they recommend that to access their services you start by calling 211.
Note: This organization cannot help you with direct representation, but offers many self-help publications that you can access free on its website in the areas of family law, violence against women, consumer and debt, employment rights, court procedures and lawyers, LGBT rights, criminal rights, civil rights, health and reproductive justice, and wills and estates.
Note: The Legal Action Center provides free legal assistance to low income residents of King County facing housing issues such as eviction, landlord/tenant problems, and debtor/creditor issues related to past tenancies.
Note: This organization provides “Social Security advocacy for people with disabilities who are low income or homeless.”
Note: If you are accused of a crime and cannot afford an attorney, the Department of Public Defense (DPD) may be able to help you. Check here for eligibility requirements for DPD Services and here for information on how to get a DPD attorney. Additional information about the process may be found on the Frequently Asked Questions page.