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.
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.
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.
No. Prairie State does receive some government grants for its work, but Prairie State is an independent law firm.
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.”
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.
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.
View the section titled "Eligibility Factors" on this page for this information.
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.
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/
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:
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:
To view Prairie State’s current Grievance Procedure, please click on the following link: Grievance Procedure.
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.
|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
|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
|All other applicants should call their local office.|
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.
Whether you are eligible for help from Prairie State Legal Services depends on the following factors:
|Size of Household||Illinois|
|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).
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