1. How do I become a client with Access Justice?
First, contact the Access Justice office to discuss your legal matter.
- Call: 612.879.8092 or Toll Free 1.877.999.AJOK
- Email: info@AccessJustice.org
- Fax: 612.879.8707
- Mail: 310 4th Avenue South Suite 1006, Minneapolis, MN, 55415
We will schedule a FREE 30-45 minute initial consultation at the Access Justice Office.
- Print the forms out beforehand and submit them… by Fax (612.879.8707) or Scan and Email them to info@AccessJustice.org
- OR Arrive 15-20 minutes early to fill out the forms.
Attend your scheduled FREE 30-45 minute consultation
- You will discuss your legal needs with an Access Justice attorney.
- The Access Justice attorney will determine whether or not we can handle your matter and, if so, you will work with the attorney to establish and sign a written retainer agreement describing our agreed-upon representation.
- The initial consultation costs $30, and you are required to make that payment when you fill out and send in your Eligibility for Legal Services and Request for Legal Services forms, or no later than the day of your initial consultation. A check, credit or debit card, money order, cashier’s check or cash will be accepted. If the initial consultation goes longer than 45 minutes, you will be required to pay $99 per hour.
- Bring with you all important documents related to your case – especially formal court papers; preferably have copies made for us beforehand.
- Make sure you have filled out your two forms, the Eligibility Form and a Request for Legal Services Form.
2. How can I contact Access Justice?
You can reach us in multiple ways – by telephone, directly through our website, by email and by regular mail. Go to contact us or refer to FAQ #1 above.
3. What is the Access Justice service area?
We currently offer services only in Minnesota and mostly in the seven-county Twin Cities metro area. However, we do go outstate and have represented clients on many issues in 45 different counties. We also have a growing number of volunteer and independent contract attorneys who help us serve clients in Greater Minnesota. Please contact us or fill out and send an Eligibility Form and a Request for Legal Services form to see if we will be able to provide you with legal assistance.
4. Can you help people who don’t speak English?
YES! ¡Si! En Access Justice tenemos personas para atender a clientes hispanohablantes. We also have access to and collaborate with organizations, members of the community, and translators who can assist you and us in communicating with people who speak languages such as Somali, Hmong and others.
Please contact us to see how we can serve you.
5. What kinds of cases does Access Justice take?
Access Justice is a full service public interest law firm. That means that we offer quality and affordable legal services involving a broad spectrum of legal issues. Please review our List of Services. We focus on helping working class, economically disadvantaged people, small businesses, and other nonprofit organizations that can’t get legal services anyplace else (either free or through private attorneys) to help them solve critical legal problems affecting their daily lives. In many cases, we also serve clients who have been unable to secure or work with a Legal Aid attorney or Public Defender, often by referral.
Because of Access Justice’s emphasis on social justice, whenever possible we will devote extra resources to cases in that broad area, such as civil and human rights matters.
6. I don’t see my problem listed. Does that mean you won’t help me?
Contact us! We did not list all of our areas of service because there are so many. In order to fully assess your request, it is best to fill out and promptly submit both the Eligibility Form and the Request for Legal Services Form. We may be able to assist you either directly or indirectly.
7. What is the cost of Access Justice’s services?
Only as much as you are able and prepared to specifically commit to Access Justice to help resolve your legal issues. Our significantly reduced hourly rate is normally $99 per hour.
The retainer agreement establishes an amount of money typically based on the reduced hourly rate of $99 per hour and the number of hours of estimated work. Instead of hourly rates, we’re also able to establish a fixed flat fee for agreed-upon services; or provide a “limited scope representation” in which we provide legal services for one or more aspects of your overall matter. In some cases, we are also able to establish an hourly rate that is less than $99 hour, based on your family income. Our fees and any arrangement for their payment depend upon the nature and scope of the legal services to be provided. In every instance, a signed retainer will be required in order to establish a formal attorney-client relationship.
8. Am I eligible for legal services from Access Justice?
Our goal is to serve working class clients that not only can’t get Pro Bono (free) legal services (from government-funded organizations such as Legal Aid or Public Defender), but also those that can’t afford the typically high fees of private lawyers. Currently, we are giving priority to clients whose family income falls into the ‘Justice Gap’ — that is between 125% and 350% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG). We also serve any working poor below 125% of the FPG who for one of a number of reasons can’t or chose not to secure the assistance of a Legal Aid or Public Defender attorney. Our Board of Directors has also authorized providing legal assistance in some instances to persons with family income up to 400% of the FPG. See Eligibility Guidelines and chart listing the current FPG.
If you are a nonprofit group or organization, or a small business, the non-profit itself must be a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, or the owner of the business must be able to qualify individually as a client of Access Justice under the FPG.
To see if you are eligible for Access Justice legal services, fill out and submit our Eligibility Form and our Request for Legal Services Form and/or contact us with any questions. These forms must be reviewed by Access Justice before we agree to represent a potential client.
9. Does Access Justice take personal injury or medical malpractice cases?
Typically, no. There are many lawyers who take these kinds of cases on a “contingency” basis. That means you only have to pay if you win, and the payment is a certain percentage of the award that you get. We take some contingency cases, but only a very few at this time. We also have taken and may take some cases where we combine both an hourly based or fixed fee for one part of a longer potential contingency fee arrangement (e.g. unlawful termination of employment). Please inquire.
So, since almost everyone can get an attorney to help with a personal injury case without having to pay any money up front, Access Justice attorneys are generally not needed for and only sometimes take these cases. Our focus is on helping people who can’t get the legal assistance they need and deserve anywhere else on a wide range of basic and essential legal issues.
How do I decide if I need a lawyer?
10. Do I need a lawyer to pursue a claim or resolve an issue?
No, but… most of life’s important decisions, such as those involving people’s homes, health care, child custody and support, safety, credit and critically needed government assistance, often have hidden pitfalls. Not reviewing these issues with and seeking assistance from a qualified professional can have serious if not disastrous consequences.
Most people know that lawyers can help you when you go to court. However, lawyers can also help prevent problems (see Proactive Legal Services and below) before any issues turn into headaches and major heartaches. Also, many lawyers, besides knowing how best to apply the law to help you, are also skilled mediators and negotiators. Why wouldn’t you want a good one that’s affordable on your side?
11. When should I get a lawyer?
1) First, you should immediately talk to a lawyer if you get any kind of legal notice with a date for a scheduled event or administrative hearing. Missing deadlines usually causes serious consequences. Secondly, you should consider at least talking with a lawyer if you see legal trouble brewing (for example, if someone is threatening you with legal action such as an order for protection or change in child custody or parenting rights. (See Proactive Legal Services and below).
At Access Justice, we encourage people to pursue Proactive Legal Services, so that we can work with you to prevent time consuming, unnecessarily costly and aggravating legal battles. Of course, if needed and appropriate, we can and will fight very hard for your rights in court. You should carefully consider our legal assistance in numerous situations, such as:
2) Before or as you make a major decision, such as:
When you make a major purchase on contract, such as a car, home, etc.
3) Before or as you write something that’s important and that you want to be legally binding, such as:
A will, a health care directive, a contract, etc.
4) Before you sign something that might be legally binding, such as:
An employment contract, purchase agreement, modification of an existing marriage contract, etc.
12. I’m still not sure if I should seek legal advice. What should I do?
Contact us! Access Justice will briefly consider your issue and, if appropriate, suggest options. Instead, you may want to promptly submit the Eligibility Form and the Request for Legal Services Form, and then contact us for an appointment.
13. I just have a quick question. Will someone at Access Justice help me?
Contact us! Access Justice will listen to your concerns and suggest legal assistance that may be available to help you to avoid or at least minimize a costly legal battle. But before we provide actual advice we must have agreed to represent you as a client.
14. Can I ever get legal assistance entirely for free or will I have to pay $99 an hour?
AJ will make the decision to represent you or not very quickly, by using your Eligibility Form and Request for Legal Services Form and then talking with you. Right now we are not adequately funded to provide entirely free legal assistance except under very limited circumstances. So currently if our representation is based upon an hourly rate, you will typically be charged at $99 per hour for attorney’s time, $75 per hour for law clerks’, paralegals’ and assistants’ time, and $60 per hour for administrative assistants’ time. If your family income is less than 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG), you may be charged as little as $75 or even $60 per hour for an attorney’s assistance. That way we can try to keep your total fees at a reasonable level! We always try to be generous with our rates and hours in order to provide affordable legal services. Assuming adequate funding for Access Justice’s programs in the future (from foundations, individual donors, corporations, and/or fees from legal services provided at “low bono” significantly reduced rates), we hope to eventually reach our founding goal where as many as 80% of our clients will be able to receive free (Pro Bono) services in the future.
If you want to get a rough idea of our current policy and willingness to represent you, go to the chart on Eligibility Guidelines. If your income is between 150% to 400% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG) you are likely to be eligible for a reduced rate of $99 an hour. If your income is between 125% – 150% of the FPG, we can charge you only $75 an hour; and if its below 125% of the FPG it may only cost you $60 per hour. (Please note that this will only give you a rough idea—since just looking at the chart does not take into account extra expense burdens or additional assets.) For more specific information, refer to our Representation Policy and/or contact us.
15. Do I ever have to pay more than $99 an hour? Is there some catch?
No catch! At this time our services never cost more than $99 per hour. Never. Also, many clients will be able to secure flat, fixed fees to have us help resolve a particular legal issue or to allow us to review various legal transactions or materials as part of a “limited scope” representation (see below). It is possible that at some future time we may need or want to review and revise this policy, by charging higher (or possibly lower) rates/fees, depending on our then current outside funding and budget. As noted, at this time, our current policy and funding base requires us typically to charge for attorneys’ time as much as $99 per hour for an hourly fee arrangement (though we often are generous in not charging for certain services and/or hours worked by various staff members and sometimes charge only $60-$75 per hour).
16. Okay, it’s $99 an hour. Will I have to pay for so many hours that I still can’t afford your legal services?
The first time you see an attorney at Access Justice, the first 30-45 minutes of consultation are always free.
Before we begin to charge you, we will explain what we expect to do in your case, how long we anticipate that will take and what our best estimate is of the likely cost. If, due to the particular situation and circumstances, it appears that more legal work is needed, we will talk with you and together figure out how to proceed effectively and fairly.
At Access Justice, we believe in Proactive Legal Services—preventive legal counsel that emphasizes early engagement of legal representation, allowing you to actually save time, hassle and money. Whenever possible, Access Justice will seek to acheive a negotiated settlement and/or to pursue available and cost-effective mediation or alternative dispute resolution opportunities that usually can also save you considerable time and expense. If necessary and/or likely to be effective, Access Justice has the capacity to, and will, engage in litigation efforts on a client’s behalf.
We will consider both specific flat fee arrangements and distinct hourly commitments that aim to keep your expenses to a reasonable and acceptable level. A retainer amount to cover a certain number of hours, or facets, of our anticipated work or the agreed-upon flat fee is required before Access Justice represents a potential client. Flexible payment plans can and often are arranged. See below and review our Representation Policy.
17. What about payment plans?
You will typically be required to provide AJ an initial retainer fee, or an agreed portion of it, at the time we agree to represent you and you sign a written retainer agreement. Whenever possible and appropriate, we try to accommodate a client’s need for a payment plan, as long as we are satisfied that you will faithfully carry it out.
18 . Will I ever have to pay more than my initial retainer amount?
Yes. Unless our retainer is a fixed flat fee, you normally will be required to “replenish” your hourly retainer if 50% of it has been earned by AJ’s services.
19. Besides low bono hourly or fixed glass fees, do I need to pay anything else when AJ represents me?
Yes, you are required to pay out-of-pocket expenses and other costs, such as filing fees, copy changes, credit card changes, and others. In many cases, such costs can be taken from the retainer funds you have paid on your account. All such expenses and costs for which are you responsible are set out in your written retainer agreement.
20. If someone can help me meet my financial obligations under the retainer agreement, what are her or his obligations?
That person can be, and will be required to be, a guarantor; and s/he will be required to sign your retainer and be jointly responsible for payments under its terms.
21. Can I use a credit or debit card to pay my fees and/or costs?
Yes. We take most standard cards, and we charge you 3% to cover most of the fees that the companies make us pay to them for their services.
22. What happens if I run out of money to pay you for your services during the course of Access Justice representation?
We’ll work with you as best we can, and, if your representation is based upon an hourly fee arrangement, we’ll keep you informed about the status of your retainer funds and your need to replenish your account if it gets below 50% of the initial hourly retainer that we hold in a trust account. (If you pay a fixed, flat fee for services, that money is regarded as earned fees and is immediately placed in our general operating account). If it looks like you can’t fulfill the terms of your retainer agreement, whether by payment of owed fees, or for any other reason set forth in your agreement, AJ may need to withdraw from further representation. But, we’ll do all can to avoid that result by keeping in good communication with you.
23. Do you compete with other existing public interest law efforts?
Our intent and practice is not to compete with any other public interest law firms or organizations, and certainly not with private firms, that provide valuable legal services in various areas of law to other unserved individuals and organizations. Our mission is to provide quality and affordable legal representation to unserved working class clients at significantly reduced rates/fees and sometimes at no cost. We do so by complementing and supporting the valuable work of other similarly oriented organizations. Read more about our rates and see our Representation Policy for more information.
24. Instead of competition, what is your approach?
In short, collaboration. At Access Justice, we are intent upon collaborating with other public interest and nonprofit service organizations whenever possible. At the same time, many such organizations do not offer direct or full legal services, are issue-specific, and/or are already over-burdened. As mentioned above, AJ both complements and supplements their legal assistance and related support efforts in many ways.
25. Can you also direct me to other community legal resources?
There are quite a few community organizations that are performing wonderful service for the tens of thousands of people who have difficulty getting the legal and related assistance that they need. We are happy to refer you to one or more of them that may be able to assist you. As noted, Access Justice is not here to compete in any way with those organizations, but to fill in where there are gaps in available legal services for unserved clients (i.e., poor, distressed and underprivileged individuals, disadvantaged minorities, small businesses, and 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organizations). For a partial listing of some of these fine non-profits, go to the “collaboration” heading under the designation Re:Sources, or contact us for more information on other community legal resources.
26. How can I make a referral to Access Justice?
You can refer a client or acquaintance to Access Justice in two ways. A great many of our clients come to us by referrals.
Second, you may contact us yourself, and request that we contact the person. You should only use this method if you are very sure the person to be contacted wants to receive Access Justice’s services, or if the person is with you and can answer questions while you talk to us on the phone or help them fill out the necessary forms, the Eligibility Form and the Request for Legal Services Form.