What should I do if I have legal questions for an attorney?

Get help at the Legal Access Point

Legal Access Point (LAP)

Legal Access Point (LAP) is a joint project sponsored by the HCBA Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS), Volunteer Lawyers Network (VLN), and the Hennepin County 4th Judicial District Court. Volunteer attorneys offer brief advice on a walk-in basis weekdays at the Self-Help Center of the Hennepin County Government Center (300 S. 6th Street, Minneapolis, MN 55419) and one Monday a month at the Brookdale courthouse.  At those locations, members of the public with general legal questions are able to speak with attorneys and receive 15-20 minutes of brief advice.   

Click here to view the Legal Access Point calendar to see legal topics handled by volunteer attorneys each day.  Attorneys listed as “General” do not give family or criminal law advice.   

Do I need to hire an attorney for a misdemeanor?

If your case is in Hennepin County, speak with a volunteer attorney at the courthouse before your initial hearing through the Misdemeanor Defense Project (MDP).

Misdemeanor Defense Project (MDP)

The Misdemeanor Defense Project is a public service program designed to provide legal advice and direction to persons appearing in Misdemeanor court.  In order to speak with a volunteer attorney, you must not be eligible for a Public Defender.  The primary role of MDP attorneys is to ensure that defendants understand their charges, the court process and their legal options; however, you may be given the option to hire the attorney. 

Call a referral counselor at (612)752-6699 to see if a volunteer attorney is scheduled to be at the courthouse on the day of your initial hearing. 

Where can I find additional legal information or advice?

Go to the website at LawHelpMN.

LawHelpMN contains a collection of articles containing legal information about a many areas of law, free do-it-yourself legal forms, and a list of legal clinics that may be available in your area.  https://www.lawhelpmn.org/

What should I do if I cant afford an attorney?

Call the MNLRIS to see if you qualify for the Reduced Fee Program

The MN Lawyer Referral Service and Information Service hosts a Reduced Fee Program which provides reduced-cost legal services for clients who have legal issues in Minnesota. In order to qualify for this program, you must have some form of stable income which lies between 125-250% of the federal poverty guidelines.

If you think you might qualify, please let us know.  We will conduct a financial screening over the phone.   You can reach us to schedule an appointment by phone at 612-752-6699.  Just let us know that you are interested in a financial screening for the Reduced Fee Program.

Consider whether Unbundled or Limited Scope Representation make sense for you

What is “Limited Scope” or “Unbundled” representation?

Limited scope representation means that you and your attorney agree that you will perform some of the tasks associated with your case, and the attorney will perform others. The attorney then bills you only for the parts of the case the attorney handled.

To receive assistance from an attorney who is willing to consider “unbundled” or “limited scope representation,” contact a MNLRIS referral counselor at 612-752-6699 or visit mnunbundled.org.

What types of services might an attorney provide?

Below are some examples of tasks you may want to hire an attorney to perform:

  • Have an attorney available for consultation, legal information, and legal advice about your case when needed
  • Have an attorney review legal correspondence and court documents
  • Have an attorney represent you on only certain issues in your case (such as child support and/or custody) while you do the rest yourself
  • Have an attorney prepare forms and other court documentation but file them yourself and represent yourself at the hearings
  • Have an attorney help you with the factual investigation of your case which might include contacting witnesses and conducting public record searches while you present the evidence to the court
  • Have an attorney help you with the more complicated parts of your case, such as discovery, interrogatories, depositions, document production and legal research/analysis while you complete the simpler tasks
  • Have an attorney coach you on how to represent yourself at the court hearings and help in the preparation of evidence that you will present in court
  • Have an attorney provide you with advice about availability of alternative means to resolving the dispute such as mediation or arbitration
  • Have an attorney available for consultation and trouble-shooting during mediation or arbitration
  • Have an attorney coach you prior to negotiations, arbitration or mediation while you attend the meeting yourself

What are the benefits of Limited Scope Representation?

By only paying an attorney to do those parts of your case that you cannot do yourself, you can save you money on legal fees.

Having an attorney helping you with parts of your case can save you a great deal of time and energy because the attorney can educate you about the process and your specific issues. He or she can also help you find self-help books and other resources so you can handle the parts of the case when you are on your own.

An attorney, by being more removed from your case than you are, can see things about your case that you cannot. An attorney can help you focus on the legal issues and on what the court can do for you, and not let yourself be distracted by other issues and emotions.

An attorney can identify potential problems or hidden complications early on, so you can avoid making a costly mistake.

What to consider when deciding if limited scope representation is right for you.

While there are many benefits to limited scope representation, there are times when it might not be the best choice for you.  You may want to hire an attorney for full representation in circumstance where:

  • Your case has a lot of technical issues or is very time sensitive
  • You do not have the time to educate yourself or effectively handle many of the tasks that you need to do.
  • There is a lot at stake in your case (such a losing your home, losing parenting rights to your children, or substantial financial loss).

If you chose to handle your case this way, remember that communication and teamwork is the. You must make sure to discuss your legal matter with the attorney in detail and ask questions about issues that are not clear to you.

How to work with a Limited Scope Attorney

You and the attorney should have an in-depth discussion about all the aspects of your case and agree on your respective responsibilities.  Make sure you have a signed agreement which clearly states what the attorney will and will not perform for you.

Below are important details you should consider working through with your attorney:

  • Who will decide on the strategy?
  • Who will gather what information?
  • Who will prepare the information for the court?
  • Who will draft documents for the court?
  • Who will appear at court proceedings and settlement conferences?
  • Who will negotiate with the other side?

Your contract should also clearly state the fees for each service and how you will be charged.  Remember, the clearer your agreement, the less likely you are to have a misunderstanding with your attorney.

What if I need additional services from the attorney at a later date?

New issues frequently arise within a case which means that you may find you need more assistance from the attorney than originally expected. You may always go back to the attorney and ask for more assistance. Your attorney will already be familiar with you and your case because of his or her prior involvement. Just make sure that you and your attorney clearly define what additional tasks the attorney is being hired to complete and sign a new contract.

I need a lawyer today but can’t afford one. What should I do?

Contact the Volunteer Lawyers Network (VLN) or Legal Aid for civil legal assistance in many areas of law.