The help comes at a desperate time for some people.
They need child-support payments from an ex-spouse. They need wisdom through a bankruptcy. They need protection in cases of domestic violence.
Such are those seeking a hand from Legal Aid District 11, a Columbus-based nonprofit agency assisting low-income residents year-round.
Come Monday, though, Legal Aid will extend a hand to anyone for free help through Talk to a Lawyer Day at eight locations in seven area counties or by phone. Attorneys volunteer time nationwide on Martin Luther King Jr. Day for free consultation at a time when courts are not in session.
The agency, which began in 1982 as Legal Aid of Bartholomew County, assisted 24 clients in Bartholomew County on the special day last year.
The agency also served 21 people combined in Brown, Decatur, Jackson and Jennings counties.
Legal Aid provides more than 1,000 hours of service annually to low-income residents, according to figures, according to Sullivan. And the list of clients’ needs is longer than the list of volunteering attorneys.
“Whenever people are facing a legal issue, it can be intimidating and scary for them,” said Alaina Sullivan, Legal Aid’s executive director.
The agency’s leader knows she, her staff and volunteers are having an impact. Recently, she visited a local restaurant to eat and discovered her waitress had been a grateful Legal Aid client.
“A lot of people don’t always know what’s legally possible (in their situation),” said Emily Angel, a Legal Aid attorney in charge of lawyer referral and the agency’s pro bono director.
May times, when Legal Aid’s phone rings, the person on the other end of the line offers a description of their circumstance and asks, “Do I even have a case here?”