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By the author of the FREE online course Growing Self-Sufficiency: The Whole Picture
Lawyers are notoriously expensive. However, there have been many times in the past several years in which I have required the advice and/or services of a lawyer. In fact, I was on the phone with my lawyer just yesterday! And that got me thinking….What if I shared my thrifty tips for getting free or low-cost legal advice with all of the Frugalites out there? And so, this article was born.
So, dear Frugalites, read on to receive my best tips in relation to knowing your rights and keeping on the right side of the law! Please note that I am providing the information from my own country and jurisdiction as a model in the hopes that you will then be empowered to identify similar resources in your own area.
Where and how to get free or low-cost legal advice
When it comes to legal matters, I am pretty picky about my sources. While I enjoy my cousin Joe’s social media scroll and all of his “entertaining videos,” I am not likely to use this as a resource for legal matters. In my own region, I go straight to the horse’s mouth, so to speak, and start with the official website of the organization that is legally responsible for licensing lawyers in my province in Canada. That is the Law Society of Ontario. If you are in the United States, then this organization might be connected to your State. You can start there. I am also hoping that all of the helpful Frugalites will share their own American resources to support the community.
The law society referral program
Through the official website of the Law Society of Ontario, I go straight to the Public Resources tab. There, I found the “Finding a Lawyer or Paralegal” section. From there, I found something called the “Law Society Referral Program.” You may think that I am stating the obvious here, but if you are new to the process, these tabs might not stand out.
I have used this amazing service of the Law Society many times over the years, even before it was available on the internet (so, think 20 years back!). In most cases, I have been able to get the information that I need through this free service without paying a cent. How could that be? Well, this service will direct you to a practicing lawyer in your region and allow you to have an up to 30-minute initial consultation for free. Yes, you read that correctly: FREE.
In one situation I can remember in the past several years, I was able to get a face-to-face 30-minute initial consultation with the top lawyer in a city of 100,000 for the specific area of law I needed assistance with. His kind and expert advice was all that I needed. Based on his expert opinion, I was able to make my own decision about the chances of the legal action I was considering. To this day, I am grateful for that service, as I could not have afforded to pay him for that session.
Online documents and other services available for free
If you are considering using the above service, then I can’t overemphasize the importance of first doing your homework. Once again, I go back to the horse’s mouth for these. The Law Society of Ontario provides an introductory document called “Choosing the Right Legal Professional” in their Public Resources tab. If I did not have any experience, I would start with that before I made any calls through the referral service.
Depending on the situation you find yourself in, you might also benefit from the following tabs: “Locating a will, legal file or legal document,” which links you directly to an FAQ about storing legal documents. It appears that there are countless ways that wills can be lost/inaccessible to loved ones. I read this FAQ and it was enough to scare me into improving the status of my will and how it is stored. If you want to prevent headaches for the loved ones you leave behind, this list of questions would provide ample warning of how things can go wrong if a will or other legal document is not stored properly, and in multiple places.
Another amazing resource for understanding your legal rights in a wide range of areas has been created by CLEO, Community Legal Education Ontario. It is a website called, Steps to Justice. On this site, you are guided through pathways to help you understand your rights in a wide range of areas of law, including family, employment, tenant rights and many more. By creating a log in, this online service can even help you fill in relevant legal forms so that you can print them.
The Steps to Justice website also provides links to Ontario Legal Aid, which is available to Ontario citizens in a low-income situation. So, by accessing just these four resources: Ontario Law Society website, Ontario Law Society Referral Service, Steps to Justice, and Ontario Legal Aid, you spend some time and inform yourself about your rights and perhaps even have a 30-minute consultation with a lawyer for free.
Cold calls or lukewarm calls
In a rural area or small town like where I live, there are a limited number of lawyers. So, if you want to hire a lawyer, another way to do it is through word of mouth. When I needed a lawyer for a real estate transaction, I used this method, asking my relatives which lawyer (of the three or four) in the local town of 5,000 people they used and if they were happy with him/her. On that basis, I cold called and hired one lawyer for a simple transaction that I was basically happy with.
When that lawyer retired, I again used word of mouth to hire my new lawyer. This took me two tries to get the right fit. I think this is an important point: everyone is different. An initial consultation will allow you to decide whether the fit is good. On the recommendation of some other relatives, I “lukewarm” called one lawyer, stating that my relative X had recommended him. We had an initial discussion of around 15 minutes (for free), which allowed me to conclude that the fit wasn’t there. I simply never contacted him again. After a second “lukewarm” call based on the recommendation of a friend, I found my current lawyer, who is outstanding.
Building a relationship with a good lawyer
Now that I have found my excellent lawyer, I have made it a point to do my best to maintain a good relationship with him. I respect his time. I pay my bills on time. I express my gratitude for his good work. In exchange, he does make himself available for quick calls now and again when I have a question.
That was the case yesterday. I am simply amazed at how he answers his own phone and is willing to chat for a few minutes. I was able to get his opinion and availability to address my concern in question. I completed the call with an understanding of the issues and have reflected on the situation and made my own decision. He does not charge me for these quick calls. To me, that kind of access to his legal expertise is priceless. To express my gratitude, I plan to send a gift basket to his office this fall. I want to maintain this relationship that is so valuable to me!
Accessing low-cost legal advice
Knowing your rights doesn’t have to break the bank. Could you see yourself trying any of the thrifty tips offered here? Do you have any suggestions for free or low-cost legal advice you can share with us? Please tell us in the comments section.
Colette is passionate about sharing her knowledge of thrifty living and self-sufficiency. She has developed her skills in self-reliance living in the suburbs, the city, and more recently, on her own Half-Acre Homestead. Colette lived five years completely off-grid and without running water in an eight by 24 foot tiny home while designing and building her own 18 by 24-foot eco-cabin. Her website, Half Acre Homestead is attracting followers from around the world who want to become more self-sufficient. Colette invites you to stop by the Homestead and check out all of the great resources including the practical How To Guides, A Tiny Home Resource Center and her organic gardening stories on her blog. She shares her wholistic model (body/mind/spirit) for achieving self-sufficiency in her Free Course, “Growing Self-Sufficiency: The Whole Picture.” Stop by the Homestead today to register free of charge!