Finding Legal Help
You are not required to hire an attorney, but legal matters can be complicated. Consider talking to an attorney to go over your options. See the Finding Legal Help page for information about free and low cost ways to get legal help.
Como encontrar ayuda legal
Usted no está obligado a contratar un abogado, pero los asuntos legales pueden ser complicados. Considere la posibilidad de hablar con un abogado para hablar de sus opciones. Para información sobre cómo obtener ayuda legal vea nuestra página Como encontrar ayuda legal.
Finding Legal Help
If you are facing a lawsuit you can hire a lawyer, hire a licensed paralegal practitioner, or represent yourself.
A lawyer (sometimes called an attorney) is a professionally trained and licensed person who helps people with legal problems. They advise people about their legal rights and options, prepare legal documents and represent people in courts and government agencies. See the Utah State Bar's Tips on Finding a Utah Attorney web page for more information.
In most cases a lawyer is not provided for you. In some limited cases a lawyer is provided even if you cannot afford one.
If you are an adult you may qualify for a court-appointed lawyer in some limited cases. First the court must find that you are unable to afford a lawyer (indigent). The court will use the standards in Utah Code 78B-22-202 to decide if the you are indigent. If you are indigent you qualify for a lawyer if you are:
- charged with a criminal offense if the penalty for that offense includes the possibility of jail time
- a parent or legal guardian facing any action for abuse, neglect, or dependency proceedings under Utah Code 78A-6-304
- a parent or legal guardian sued under the Termination of Parental Rights Act or Utah Code 78B-6-112
- a parent or legal guardian charged with an adult offense under Utah Code 78A-6-1003
- an individual making their first appeal from one of those cases
An adult might also qualify for a free or low-cost lawyer if they are a respondent in a guardianship or conservatorship case. This is through the Guardianship Signature Program. The cost of the lawyer is based on a sliding scale that considers the respondent's income.
If you are a minor you may qualify for a court-appointed lawyer if you are:
- arrested and admitted into detention for an offense under Utah Code section 78A-6-103
- charged by petition or information in the juvenile or district court
- appealing a first appeal from an adjudication or other final court action in one of these proceedings
A minor's parent or legal guardian may be required to reimburse the county for these legal costs if the minor's parent or legal guardian is not found indigent. The court will use the standards in Utah Code 78B-22-202 to determine if the parents are indigent.
If your case does not fit one of these categories, you do not qualify for a court appointed lawyer and will need to find legal representation through a private lawyer or another organization, or represent yourself.
Free Legal Options
Some courts have "pro se" ("pro say") calendars where lawyers represent people for free at court hearings. But there are some limitations:
- Help is limited to the hearing - after the hearing you will represent yourself
- You must already have an open case and be scheduled for a hearing on the pro se calendar
- Help is only for a few types of cases and at a few court locations
Look at the list of Utah Pro Se Calendars to see if your case qualifies. If you qualify, attend the hearing and follow any instructions to get help.
There are some agencies that will represent you for free even if you are not entitled to a court-appointed lawyer. All of these organizations have restrictions on how much help they can provide, and many limit their help based on your income. See the Agencies and Organizations web page for more information.
There are also some agencies that will offer free advice, but not representation. Some of them also have income limits. See the Legal Clinics web page for more information.
Finding a Lawyer
Use one of these directories to find a lawyer, or ask friends and family to recommend a lawyer. Court staff cannot recommend lawyers.
- Utah State Bar's lawyer directory to search for lawyers by area of practice.
Other Ways to Hire a Lawyer
Many people think they can't afford to hire a lawyer. Here are two options provided by the Utah State Bar that may help:
Modest Means Lawyer Referral Program
The Utah State Bar's Modest Means Lawyer Referral Program provides access to legal representation for people whose income is too high to qualify for free legal services, but too low to pay a lawyer's standard rate. In order to qualify you must fall below the income guidelines. See their webpage for program information.
Limited Legal Help
Limited legal help, also known as "limited scope legal representation" or "unbundled services" is an agreement between a lawyer and client that the lawyer will provide specific services for a predetermined fee. For example, the lawyer and client could agree that the lawyer:
- will only advise the client about the strength of the case, or
- help draft a document, or
- review a document the client has drafted, or
- coach the client for a negotiation, or
- help with the discovery process, or
- coach the client for a hearing, or
- appear in court on behalf of the client for one hearing only, or
- any combination of these kinds of services
You can find lawyers willing to provide limited legal help by using the Utah State Bar's directory. Choose Search by Legal Category, then choose Payment Options and Unbundled Services.
You can also find information on free legal clinics where you can talk to a volunteer lawyer for free to receive limited advice.
The Utah State Bar's Overview of Public Service Programs, Information, and Resources web page has more information about working with lawyers.
Sliding Scale Fees and Other Options
Some lawyers charge a sliding scale fee based on your income. This means how much you pay depends on how much you earn. Some lawyers will also provide a free consultation. Others will charge a flat fee for services. You can search for lawyers by payment options using the Utah State Bar's directory. Choose Search by Legal Category, then choose Payment Options and search options you want.
Complaints About Lawyers
The Utah State Bar's Consumer Assistance Program is designed to help resolve conflicts between clients and their lawyers or paralegals. This program also allows you to file a complaint against a legal professional besides your own.
The Bar also offers a Fee Dispute Resolution Program to work out fee disputes between clients and their lawyers or licensed paralegal practitioner.
If you want to file a formal complaint against a lawyer or licensed paralegal professional you can contact the Office of Professional Conduct.
Unauthorized Practice of Law
Only lawyers and Licensed Paralegal Practitioners licensed by the Utah State Bar can practice law in Utah. Paralegals, notarios, immigration consultants and others may not give legal advice or otherwise practice law unless they are licensed lawyers or Licensed Paralegal Practitioners. You can use the Utah State Bar's directory to see if someone is a licensed Utah lawyer or Licensed Paralegal Practitioner.
Supreme Court Rule of Professional Practice 14-802 defines the practice of law. The rule also says that giving clerical help to fill out court forms is not the practice of law if no fee is charged.
If you believe someone is practicing law without a license, you can report them to the Utah State Bar. For more information, see the Utah State Bar's Unauthorized Practice of Law web page.
Licensed Paralegal Practitioner
A licensed paralegal practitioner (LPP) is a professionally trained and licensed person who helps people with legal problems. They advise people about their legal rights and options and prepare legal documents in debt collection, family law and landlord-tenant cases. You can read more about what LPPs can and cannot help with on our Licensed Paralegal Practitioner page.
You can look for an LPP using the Utah State Bar's directory. Click the option for Licensed Paralegal Practitioners. You can ask if your LPP is willing to provide unbundled services, free consultations, a flat fee or other options.
If you do not qualify for a lawyer or cannot afford one you can try representing yourself using these resources.
The Utah courts have a comprehensive library of self-help resources on a variety of topics. Visit the Self-Help Resources page to look for information or forms.
The Utah courts also have an online document preparation tool called the Online Court Assistance Program (OCAP) you can use to prepares papers in some kinds of cases.
Law libraries have print and online resources including statutes, regulations, court rules, and court decisions, as well as legal encyclopedias, form books, and books about specific areas of law. Most law books are written for legal professionals, but some books are written for non-lawyers. Law library staff can't give you legal advice, but they can show you how to use their resources.
- Utah State Law Library: Matheson Courthouse, 450 South State Street, Salt Lake City. 801-238-7990.
- James E. Faust Law Library: 383 South University Street, University of Utah, Salt Lake City. 801-581-6184.
- Howard W. Hunter Law Library: Brigham Young University, J. Reuben Clark Law School, Provo. 801-422-3593.
The Utah State Courts' Self-Help Center provides free legal help to people who do not have a lawyer. The Self-Help Center provides information to help you understand your rights and responsibilities, and to help you resolve your legal problems on your own if you cannot afford a lawyer or if you choose not to hire one. Services are available statewide.
The Utah State Courts mission is to provide the people an open, fair, efficient, and independent system for the advancement of justice under the law.