Legal clinic: more approachable law aid

Along with the freedom for attorneys to advertise (within limits) has come the legal clinic -- a new way for serving some legal needs. These storefront, accessible sources of legal advice and aid offer an inexpensive alternative to law as traditionally practiced.

Legal clinics dispense low-cost legal services with a minimum of fringe benefits. The principals in every legal clinic are licensed attorneys, but in many clinics you may see a paralegal or trained clerk for routine fact gathering. Points of law, recommended legal procedures, advice on your rights, and recommended actions remain in the hands of attorneys. The quality of that advice is likely to be as variable as the persons operating the legal clinics.

Generally, you can expect quick service for routine legal actions at flat rates which are clearly posted. An uncontested divorce may cost a flat $200. You may be charged $25 for drawing a relatively simple will. For some legal actions you may be given a handful of prepared forms with instructions for pursuing your own legal actions.

By handling routine legal actions quickly with a minimum of fuss and by using skilled paralegal aides, a legal clinic can process a large volume of business with minimum overhead and pass the savings on their clients. By operating at street level in simple offices readily available, they are approachable.

Legal clinics are clearly not the answer for criminal defense, corporate suits, most dealings with government agencies, and other unique problems where extensive research and court time are required.

Legal clinics provide limited legal services for people who would otherwise not see an attorney or who would be unable to pay law office charges. They are not an answer to all legal problems, but if a legal clinic can handle your problem, you can expect to pay less.

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