Ohio Legal Aid FAQ

What is civil legal aid?

Civil legal aid in Ohio refers to the free civil legal help provided by hundreds of attorneys and paralegals as either volunteers or employees of legal aid. These professionals work through local and regional legal aid offices, volunteer pro bono programs, and reduced fee contracted services to help thousands of low-income people gain access to legal representation. Civil legal aid helps low-income people resolve urgent, non-criminal legal problems that make a difference in their everyday lives.

How does legal aid serve low-income and vulnerable Ohioans?

There are seven regional legal aids in Ohio that together serve all 88 Ohio counties, plus two statewide legal aids serving special populations. Each legal aid is an independent, nonprofit law firm employing attorneys, paralegals and administrative staff. Legal aid attorneys are experienced in civil legal problems often facing those living in poverty and may also specialize in a particular area, such as housing, employment, consumer, or domestic violence. In addition to traditional one-on-one representation, Ohio's legal aids have developed regional intake systems and online resources to provide clients with advice, brief representation, or a referral to a social service provider.

How is civil legal aid funded in Ohio?

The primary source of funding for civil legal aid in Ohio is the Ohio Legal Aid Fund. The Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation administers this fund, which consists of proceeds from Interest on Lawyers' Trust Accounts (IOLTA); Interest on Trust Accounts (IOTA); and revenue from a filing fee surcharge on civil cases filed in municipal, county, and common pleas courts. Most legal aids also receive federal funding through the Legal Services Corporation, as well as grants and donations from other sources, including individual, foundations, businesses, United Way, bar association foundations, and state and local governments.

Why is there a need for civil legal aid?

As of 2013 there were more than 2.3 million Ohioans eligible for help from Ohio Legal Aid. A 2009 nationwide study by the federally-funded Legal Services Corporation found that nationally, less than 20 percent of civil legal problems experienced by a low-income person or family were resolved with the help of a legal aid attorney or a pro bono attorney volunteering for legal aid, and that for every client served by a legal aid one person was turned away due to insufficient legal aid resources. Civil legal aid helps low-income people resolve urgent, non-criminal legal problems that make a difference in the everyday lives, such as protecting the elderly from unlawful evictions, making sure women and children are protected from violence in their homes, and helping veterans receive the financial benefits they have earned and need.

How do I get civil legal help from Ohio Legal Aid?

Civil legal aid is available to those who qualify, at little or no cost, in all 88 Ohio counties. Find the legal aid serving the county where you live by calling 1-866-LAW-OHIO (1-866-529-6446) or by visiting the Ohio legal services website.