Get Legal Help

What is Prairie State Legal Services?

Prairie State Legal Services is the organization providing what many people think of as “legal aid” in 36 counties in northern and central Illinois. In reality, Prairie State is a private, not-for-profit civil law firm with a staff of skilled attorneys and paralegals who provide a full range of high quality legal services for its low-income, elderly, and disabled clients. Various government and private funders support Prairie State’s work enabling us to serve clients without charging a fee. Volunteer attorneys also help Prairie State provide legal services to clients.

What kinds of cases does Prairie State handle?

Prairie State provides legal assistance in civil cases. Read more information about the types of civil cases we handle below. We also provide legal assistance for cases that meet the criteria defined by the Special Projects listed our Home Page.

Does Prairie State handle criminal cases?

No. Prairie State does not represent defendants in any criminal or traffic cases. In addition, Prairie State does not handle abortion rights cases, political redistricting cases, selective service cases, or euthanasia (mercy killing) cases.

Is Prairie State a government agency?

No. Prairie State does receive some government grants for its work, but Prairie State is an independent law firm.

Does Prairie State charge fees or have a sliding scale?

No. Prairie State does not charge clients for its services. In order to receive assistance from Prairie State, however, clients must be financially eligible for services or eligible under the terms of a special project (such as the senior citizens law project). See the section of this website titled “Special Projects.”

Do I have the right to a lawyer to represent me in court?

Most people have heard these words on television: "You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you." Many people do not realize, however, that the rights set out in these lines (called the Miranda warnings) only apply to criminal cases. In the United States, there is generally no right to have an attorney paid by the state or by the court in a non-criminal case.

Does Prairie State take every case which comes to it?

Although we serve over 16,000 clients each year, Prairie State has limited resources. Unfortunately, we do not have enough staff or volunteer attorneys to take every case or to go to court with every low-income person who needs a lawyer in court. Prairie State tries to provide at least legal advice to every person who is eligible and who comes to the program with a non-criminal case. Prairie State always works hard to expand its staff, volunteers and other resources so that it can help more of those who need legal assistance.

Who is eligible for help from Prairie State?

View the section titled "Eligibility Factors" on this page for this information.

How do I apply for help from Prairie State?

View the section titled "How to apply for help" on this page where you can apply online or by phone. Also read the section "Tips for Applying".

Does Prairie State have a waiting list for legal help?

Some Prairie State offices have a waiting list for non-emergency cases such as divorces or bankruptcies. In general, however, the cases which clients bring to Prairie State need immediate attention. Waiting lists are not practical for these cases, and therefore Prairie State does not have wait lists for most of its services.

If Prairie State cannot represent me, can it help me handle my case by myself?

Some people hope that Prairie State will prepare lengthy court papers for them to use on their own; generally this is not something Prairie State will be able to do. However, Prairie State has many excellent written legal guides and materials, and there are many helpful on-line resources in Illinois. These materials were developed by Prairie State staff and other Illinois lawyers; these materials may help people handle cases on their own. www.illinoislegalaid.org/

We provide legal assistance in civil cases.

We provide assistance in areas of law affecting basic human needs.

Prairie State focuses its resources on legal problems that help clients secure and protect their basic needs. Due to high demand for our services, our staff is only able to provide representation in certain areas of civil law. The following are examples of the kinds of cases that we may be able to help with:

  • Public Benefits (Needs-based government assistance)
    • Loss or denial of SSI, TANF, Veterans Benefits, SNAP (food stamps)
  • Family Law:
    • Protection from abuse or exploitation for persons facing domestic violence, elderly, children and persons w/disabilities
    • Divorce and related relief for persons facing domestic violence
  • Housing Law:
    • Evictions and lock-outs
    • Foreclosure defense
    • Loss or denial of subsidized housing benefits
    • Loss or denial of essential public utilities
    • Substandard housing conditions cases that cannot be addressed by other agencies
  • Health Care:
    • Loss or denial of medical or nursing home care
    • Loss or denial of medical benefits (Medicaid, Medicare)
  • Guardianships and Powers of Attorney
  • Other income benefits where alternative representation is unavailable:
    • Loss or denial of unemployment insurance
    • Social Security Disability benefits
  • Tax Law
    • Disputes or audits with the IRS
    • Appeals and cases in court
    • Protection from Collection
    • Innocent Spouse Relief
    • Tax-related Identity Theft
    • State tax issues (if a related federal tax issue)
  • Education Issues

We only provide limited services, typically telephone advice, for many areas of law, including:

  • Family Law
    • Custody and visitation cases
    • Child support
    • Divorce where there is no domestic violence
  • Consumer Law
    • Debt collection
    • Bankruptcy
    • Repossession
    • Consumer fraud
  • Employment Issues

We do not handle:

  • Criminal
  • Immigration
  • Personal injury
  • Malpractice
  • Workers’ Compensation
  • Traffic violations
  • Probate

Grievance Procedure

Prairie State is committed to providing clients with high quality legal services, and to being accountable to the communities we serve. Towards those ends, we maintain a Client Grievance Procedure.

This Grievance Procedure is available if:

  • You are denied legal assistance from Prairie State and you do not agree with that decision, or
  • You are dissatisfied with the manner or quality of legal assistance being provided to you.

To view Prairie State’s current Grievance Procedure, please click on the following link: Grievance Procedure.

How to apply for help

All clients must apply for our services. You can apply online at www.illinoislegalaid.org/get-legal-help (IMPORTANT: Be sure to indicate what type of help you want by checking the box next to "A lawyer" on the application form). We encourage you to apply online. If we cannot accept your online application, you will be given the phone number to call your local office.

Apply by Phone

Prairie State has the following direct phone numbers:
Fair Housing Project -- If you live in the one of the following counties: Lake, McHenry, Winnebago, Boone,
Peoria or Tazewell Counties
855-FHP-PSLS
855-347-7757
Foreclosure -- Legal Help for Homeowners Project 888-966-7757
Seniors (60+) -- Older Adult Help Line 888-965-7757
Tax -- Low Income Tax Clinic 855-TAX-PSLS
855-829-7757
All other applicants should call their local office.

Tips for Applying

Whether you start online or call us, all applicants must be screened for eligibility.

The person who needs legal help should apply unless he or she cannot do so because of age or disability.

If you have any court papers or other important documents, please have them with you when you call.

For persons who speak limited English, an interpreter will be provided.

Due to limited resources, we may not be able to help you with your legal problem. The following are outside resources which you may find helpful:

You will not be denied our services on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, religion, political affiliation or belief, disability or any other classification protected by law.

Eligibility Factors

Whether you are eligible for help from Prairie State Legal Services depends on the following factors:

  • You meet our income and asset guidelines, or are age 60 or older. Generally, a client is eligible if his or her household income is less than 125% of the federal poverty level. Prairie State may be able to assist persons whose income is up to 200% of poverty level if the household has certain expenses. Click on "View Eligibility Guidelines" below to see the "Legal Services Corporation 2017 Income Guidelines" table for a general idea of income eligibility. NOTE: We may be able to represent you without consideration of your income or assets under one of our separately funded Special Projects.
  • We have no ethical conflict of interest regarding your legal issue.
  • You live within the service area of Prairie State, or have a civil legal problem in one of the counties in our service area. To see our service area, click here.
  • You meet the citizenship or immigration requirements established by Congress. It should be noted that immigrants who are fleeing domestic violence or trafficking are eligible for legal help regardless of immigration status in matters to address the abuse.
  • Government regulations do not prohibit Prairie State Legal Services from handling your type of legal problem.
  • You have one or more legal problems that can be addressed by PSLS attorneys and that fall within our established priorities.
Legal Services Corporation 2017 Income Guidelines *
Size of HouseholdIllinois
1$15,075
2$20,300
3$25,525
4$30,750
5$35,975
6$41,200
7$46,425
8$51,650
For each additional member of the household in excess of 8, add:$5,225

* The figures in the table represent 125% of the poverty guidelines by household size as determined by HHS (Department of Health and Human Resources).

Referrals to Prairie State from Social Service Agencies

Advocates in our communities may contact Prairie State directly on behalf of their clients. Advocates should call the local Prairie State office serving their area and speak with the Managing Attorney or a staff attorney acquainted with the needs of their clients. Find Your Local Office

Legal Services Corporation
LSC promotes equal access to justice. We encourage you to support LSC. LSC's support for this website is limited to those activities that are consistent with LSC restrictions.

United Way
United Way supports many important community agencies, including Prairie State Legal Services. We encourage you to support your local United Way.

© 2017 Prairie State Legal Services, Inc. All rights reserved.
¦  Employee Login   ¦  Web Page List   ¦  Disclaimer and Privacy Policy