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legal aid society

n. an organization formed to assist persons who have limited or no financial means but need legal help, usually sponsored by the local bar association's donations, sometimes with some local governmental financial support. Such societies examine the assets and income of the applicant, decide if the person has a legitimate need for legal services, give counselling, provide mediation, prepare simple documents, and if absolutely necessary give free legal assistance from a panel of volunteer attorneys. Originally most prevalent in larger cities, legal aid societies exist throughout the country. They do not usually provide assistance in criminal cases because indigent defendants are constitutionally entitled to representation by a public defender or appointed private counsel paid by the government. Some societies provide referral services to help a person find a suitable attorney, but normally referral is made by the local bar association.

See also: pro bono 

The People's Law Dictionary by Gerald and Kathleen Hill Publisher Fine Communications