“No law or ordinance is mightier than understanding.” -Plato
When you or someone you know is charged with a crime, or facing a legal matter, it can come with a sense of anxiety and uncertainty. This is especially true if you are uncertain whether you should, or can afford to hire an attorney.
Luckily, there are many free legal resources around Georgia. These centers can help you discern your legal matter, and determine what actions you should take.
Listed are some of the legal self-help centers across Georgia. Depending on where you live, pay a visit to one of these centers to take advantage of the resources available to you in our state.
Free Legal Resources in North and Central Georgia
Atlanta Legal Aid
Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Inc. manages many projects throughout metro Atlanta including the COVID-19 Public Benefits Project.
This organization helps individuals research a variety of legal areas. These include common areas, to specialized ones such as special needs child advocacy. In some cases, the organization can match clients with pro bono attorneys.
Atlanta Legal Aid is a non-profit organization. It has offices in Gwinnett, DeKalb, Cobb, Clayton, and Fulton county. If you are in need of legal help in North or Central Georgia, you should contact the office nearest to you.
Athens-Clarke County Law Library Self-Help Desk
This resource is located on the third floor of the Athens-Clarke County Courthouse. The address is 325 East Washington Street.
At the Self-Help Desk, lawyers and staff are available to assist you in research. However, they are not there to provide legal advice as a hired lawyer would. Keep in mind that attorney-client privileges do not apply in your relationship with help desk staff.
That being said, if your goal is legal self-advocacy and research, the Self Help Desk is an excellent resource.
Free Legal Resources in South and Coastal Georgia
Southwest Georgia Legal Self-Help Center
The Southwest Georgia Legal Self-Help Center is the model for self-help centers in rural areas. However, the Center’s impact stretches far beyond Albany.
According to the Albany Herald, the Center served over 1000 people from 35 counties, 19 states and three foreign countries in three months.
Similar to Athens’ self-help desk, the Center cannot provide legal advice. Instead, staff helps self-advocates locate useful information, including:
- Court procedures
- How to begin cases
- Instructions for legal paperwork
- How to find a destination court
…and provide tools like public computers for research.
If you are questioning whether you need to hire a lawyer for your case, self-help centers are a smart first stop. In just three months, the Center referred nearly 500 people to attorneys.
The Southwest Georgia Legal Self-Help Center is located in Room 209 of the Albany-Dougherty Judicial Building.
The Mediation Center and Family Law Resource Center
Mediators can help two parties reach an agreement before the issue makes it to a court of law. That is the purpose of the Mediation Center, located in Savannah, GA.
Here’s the difference between mediation and a court. In court, a judge makes a ruling and the parties are bound to a judgment based on that ruling. In mediation, the parties meet with a mediator to discuss the dispute and draft an agreement together.
Entering into this agreement is voluntary, which is the main difference between mediation and a court of law. As is the case with any contract, once you’ve signed it, it is binding.
Within the Mediation Center, the Family Law Resource Center guides people through difficult processes like divorce.
The Family Law Resource Center will not offer legal advice. Rather, it exists as a resource and guide. The Mediation Center is a non-profit organization. You can contact them using the form on their website.
Consider Legal Representation
Free legal resources are an excellent place to start, but you’d be better off with an attorney. You may not be able to pay an attorney up front, but they might take your case anyway. Sometimes, attorneys are willing to take a case on a contingency basis.
This means that the lawyer’s payment makes up a portion of the settlement acquired when your case is won. In these situations, the attorney will need to be convinced that he or she can win your case.
If you’re uncertain whether you should hire an attorney, or whether your case would be taken on contingency, it never hurts to ask. If your case deals with an accident or injury, contact Atlanta-based personal injury attorney Anita Lamar at 877-CARE-404 for a free consultation.