The Will County Legal Self-Help Center operates the Will County Law Library at14 West Jefferson Street in Joliet, Illinois. The phone number there is (815) 727-8536.
This organization “provides legal information to Will County residents about their legal rights and responsibilities, instructions on how to handle common legal problems, assistance with some legal documents and forms, and referrals to free and low-cost legal services.” Court personnel are prohibited from giving legal advice.
In addition to the Will County Law Library, the Will County Legal Self-Help Center has computer terminals at two other locations in Joliet. One is on the 2nd floor of the Will County Court Annex Building, 57 North Ottawa Street. The other is in the River Valley Justice Center, 3210 West McDonough Street. The Will County Legal Self-Help Center is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.
There is an introductory video with 12th Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Gerald R. Kinney for the Web site of The Legal Self-Help Center: Will County, http://will.illinoislegalaid.org/. It is a joint venture of the courts and the Circuit Clerk’s office of the 12th Judicial Circuit.
As Judge Kinney points out, there is no substitute for having an attorney. The Will County Bar Association and Illinois Legal Aid both refer poor people with problems in civil court to the Prairie State Legal Services, Inc. (PSLS). Will County Legal Assistance Program, Inc. joined PSLS in 2009.
According to the Will County Bar Association, PSLS “offers free legal services for low income persons and those over 60 who have serious civil legal problems and need legal help to solve them. It also conducts a pro bono referral program to bring together volunteer private attorneys and low income and elderly individuals who cannot afford an attorney.”
The PSLS provides civil legal assistance in several areas of law including but not limited to domestic violence, family law, consumer law, housing/eviction cases, public benefits, and senior citizens (sixty or older). They can be reached in Will County at (815) 727-5123 or through their Web site: http://www.pslegal.org/.
PSLS began in 1977 with five Illinois offices located in Bloomington (McLean County), Geneva (Kane County), Peoria (Peoria County) Rockford (Winnebago County), and Waukegan (Lake County). Approximately 80% of the funding came from the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) through an appropriation by the U.S. Congress.
By 1979, PSLS had additional offices in Kankakee (Kankakee County), Ottawa (La Salle County), Rock Island (Rock Island County), and Wheaton (DuPage County), with each office serving adjacent counties as well. PSLS served 29 counties, but in 1981 the U.S. Government reduced funds for legal services by almost one-third, and in the same period reduced the benefits welfare recipients and tenants in federal housing could receive. In response, PSLS began to prioritize the kinds of cases it would accept. Funding increased in the early ‘90s, but in the middle ‘90s Congress restricted the types of cases PSLS and sister organizations could accept, which led PSLS to develop the Telephone Counseling Service staffed by part-time attorneys. The service also began to increase diversification of funding resources until the LSC provided only 35% of the total. In 2000, West Central Illinois Legal Services Foundation, located in Galesburg (Knox County), which served a total of seven counties, merged with PSLS.
Since Will County Legal Assistance Program, Inc. merged with PSLS in 2009, PSLS has served 36 Illinois counties in Northern and Central Illinois with 12 offices and a staff of about 120 people, 74 of whom are attorneys. Illinois Legal Aid Online lists eleven other “Free or Reduced Fee Legal Aid” Helpful Organizations.
If one can afford a lawyer, but is unsure where to turn, one can obtain a lawyer referral from the Will County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at (815) 726-0383; Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois Lawyer Referral Service at (312) 554-2045; or the Illinois Bar Association’s Illinois Lawyer Finder. One can also call the Illinois State Bar Association Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at (217) 525-5297 – toll-free: 800-922-8757 – and ask for a free referral.