Refugee Resource Center

How to find a lawyer

If you have a big problem with your visa, your landlord, your job or being injured, you might need to get a lawyer. If you have been charged with a crime or have a problem with your immigration status, you definitely need a lawyer. Lawyers are also called attorneys.

PLEASE NOTE: WE ARE NOT LAWYERS. We cannot give you legal advice. We can just give you some information on how the legal system in the United States works.

What a lawyer does

A lawyer will advise you on what to do and will represent you in court or if you have a problem with a company. Most lawyers charge a lot of money to do this. But sometimes you can get legal help for free or for a lower cost.

The Refugee Center Online  has good information on:

  • How to decide if you need a lawyer
  • How to get translation services
  • How to protect yourself from scams

Remember that you can translate their pages into your language by clicking on the yellow button at top on a computer or the little world icon on a phone.

What to do first

The first thing you should do is ask your resettlement agency — Refugee Services of Texas (RST) or Caritas — if they can help you. If they cannot, you will need to find information yourself.

How to find information yourself

It is a good idea to try to find out what the law is in Texas about your case. You can search online for things like “Texas laws on domestic violence” or “What to do if I get a traffic ticket in Travis County.” It is important to use the words Texas or the county you live in because laws can be different in different places.

Remember that not everything you find online is true. But if you know a little bit about the law, you will know what questions to ask your lawyer.

What kind of lawyer to hire

Most lawyers specialize in certain kinds of law. It’s best to hire a lawyer who is an expert in the kind of problem you have. Look for these words when you look for a lawyer:

If you have a problem with your job, you want a lawyer who works on “employment law.”

If you were injured at work, you want a “workers compensation” lawyer.

If you were seriously injured and it is someone else’s fault, you want a “personal injury” lawyer.

If you have problems about your visa, asylum status or green card, you need an “immigration” lawyer.

If you have a problem related to your family, including a husband or wife who beats you or your children, you want a “family law” lawyer.

Paying a lawyer

Sometimes a lawyer wants you to pay before they accept your case, but sometimes a lawyer will take your case for free because they will get some of the money you receive if you win your case. They may say they won’t make you pay if you lose your case. Make sure you understand what they will charge you for.

Finding a lawyer

One way to find a lawyer is to use the State Bar of Texas referral service.

You enter where you live and what kind of problem you have, and the site will give you a name of a lawyer to talk to. That lawyer will talk to you for 30 minutes for $20.

For car wrecks, you can also use this page on the DMV.org site, BUT this is a private website, not a government site. The lawyers who are listed on this site have paid money to be listed there.

You will often see advertisements on billboard or TV for lawyers. Try to check those lawyers out very carefully.

Also ask people you know if they have used a lawyer.

Checking out a lawyer

Before you hire a lawyer, you should try to find out if people have been happy with that lawyer. Start by checking their reviews on Yelp.com and the Better Business Bureau. Google the lawyer’s name and read those reviews.

Read the law firm’s website to make sure they work on your type of case. For example, if you need help with something about your job, make sure they work on employment law.

Finding free or low cost legal help

If you cannot afford a lawyer or you can’t pay very much, you can check with some agencies in Austin to see if they will take your case. There is no guarantee that they will accept you.

Some of these agencies let you “drop in” or just come by when they are open. For some you must make an appointment. Every agency is open at different times on different days. Always call before you go so you know when you can get help.

Agencies for different types of legal problems

Some agencies only help with one or two kind of problems. We believe this information is correct, but you must check before you talk to them. Sometimes information changes.

General legal advice

VLS/TRLA Legal Advice Clinic
512-476-5550
www.vlsoct.org

Immigration, asylum and citizenship

American Gateways
512-478-0546
www.americangateways.org

Catholic Charities of Central Texas Immigration
Legal Services
512-651-6125
www.ccctx.org/ils

Casa Marianella
512-385-5571
www.casamarianella.org

Equal Justice Center
888-670-6854
www.equaljusticecenter.org

Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and
Legal Services (RAICES)
512-994-2199
www.raicestexas.org

St. Mary’s University School of Law, Center for
Legal and Social Justice (San Antonio)
210-431-2596
www.stmarytx.edu/law

Housing and landlords

Austin Tenants’ Council
512-474-1961
www.housing-rights.org

People who are disabled or elderly and need someone to take care of them

Disability Rights Texas
512-454-4816
www.disabilityrightstx.org

Family Eldercare, Inc.
512-450-0844 (Main Office)
www.familyeldercare.org

Problems with your work

Equal Justice Center
512-474-0007
www.equaljusticecenter.org

Workers Defense Project
512-391-2305
www.workersdefense.org

Migrant and seasonal farm workers

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc.
512-374-2700 or 800-369-9270
www.trla.org

Family law

VLS/TRLA Legal Advice Clinic
512-476-5550
www.vlsoct.org

Collecting child support payments

Travis County Domestic Relations Office
512-854-9696
www.co.travis.tx.us/dro

For people who are being physically or sexually abused; victims of domestic violence

SafePlace
512-267-7233
www.safeplace.org

For criminal charges (like drunk driving or theft)

St. Mary’s University School of Law, Center for
Legal and Social Justice (In San Antonio)
210-431-2596
www.stmarytx.edu/law

For civil charges (like traffic tickets or complaints against car dealers)

VLS/TRLA Legal Advice Clinic
512-476-5550
www.vlsoct.org

Victims of or witnesses to a crime

Victims Services Division, Austin Police Dept.
512-974-5037
Call 911 for emergencies

People who have HIV/AIDS

AIDS Services of Austin CAALP Project
512-406-6173
www.asaustin.org

Mediation

You might want to try “mediation” before hiring a lawyer. This means someone will help you and the person or company you are having a problem with come to an agreement on what to do. Mediation often costs less money.

Dispute Resolution Center
512-371-0033
www.austindrc.org

More agencies

This is a list of all agencies in each county in Texas. There will be different agencies if you live in Round Rock, which is in Williamson County.

 

PLEASE NOTE: WE ARE NOT LAWYERS. We cannot give you legal advice. We can just give you some information on how the legal system in the United States works.