Bridging the Justice Gap
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Dos and Don’ts

There are many things about navigating the civil legal system that we can’t capture on a website. However, here are a few dos and don’ts.

Do listen to the professionals who attempt to help you. If a Court Self-Help Center representative suggests filling out a form in a particular way, do it that way.

Do ensure that you are on time for appointments and that you leave enough time for waiting in the event schedules become backed-up.

Do take advantage of every resource the system offers. LawHelpMN.org is a great starting point for understanding your legal problem and available resources. If you have savings and a regular job, then the Attorney Referral Services of the Hennepin and Ramsey County Bar Associations are good places to start. If you don’t have savings or a job, contact one of the three Legal Aid offices in Minneapolis and Saint Paul or the Volunteer Lawyers Network in Minneapolis.

Do pay attention to deadlines and court dates. Missing either a deadline or court date could result in you losing your case, or worse, you losing important rights and the ability to have a place to live, or the chance to see your kids, or the ability to access healthcare.

Do give your attorney every document that relates to your legal problem. Don’t assume the attorney doesn’t need a particular document or piece of information.

Do attempt mediation of your legal problem. Most of the time, mediation resolves all or part of the problem.

Don’t mistakenly believe that Legal Aid attorneys aren’t “real attorneys.” In fact, most of the Legal Aid attorneys have more specialized experience in their respective fields than attorneys working for private law firms.

Don’t wait until the last minute before dealing with a legal emergency. The number one reason for unwinnable legal situations is that the person ignores a legal problem and allows it to mushroom out of control, threatening the person’s financial and emotional health. The sooner you see a lawyer about a legal problem, the better.

Don’t ignore your attorney’s calls, emails or letters. There’s a reason your attorney is trying to get ahold of you. Sometimes that means getting the attorney documents or information. Make sure you timely communicate with your attorney.

Don’t assume that attorneys or the courts or the civil legal system in general can solve every problem in your life. Some things can’t be resolved through the courts.

Don’t think you’re not smart enough to get help from the various resources in the civil legal system. The system is geared to helping everyone in one way or another.

Don’t get mad or frustrated that your case isn’t being handled as quickly as you’d like. There just aren’t enough attorneys or resources to go around. If you really want to take action, call or write your state legislator and ask them to fully fund Legal Aid and other nonprofit legal programs.

Good luck! Remember, you can call (612) 333-4000 to leave a message about legal referrals. Otherwise, go to the LawHelpMN.org website.