Illinois legal aid has just started a website for people in Rock Island County who may have minor legal problems and don’t need or can’t afford a lawyer. The website at rockisland.illinoislegalaid.org provides some simple advice and forms for things like divorce, child support, small claims cases, landlord/tenant issues, etc. It’s no substitute for a good lawyer, but it might help some people.
I have some concerns with the website. Some of the answers are too brief – for example, there is a section about statutes of limtations, but nothing mentioning that some cases have 1 year statutes, no discussion of the discovery rule, etc. It’s impossible to get a perfect understanding of how statutes of limitations work in one paragraph, but I guess that’s my point. It’s dangerous to give broad advice in a few words. Most of the advice seems pretty good.
Young lawyers should also read some of this. Often the nuts and bolts of everyday practice aren’t taught in law school, and this could provide a good overview for certain “how do I do this” type questions.
For those non-lawyers out there, you’re often better off with a lawyer – but not always. There might be lawyers who will handle your smaller matters, and what you think might be a smaller matter might be more serious and complex than you think. It’s like taking care of a car – I could putz around and try to fix my car myself, but there’s a good chance it would take me forever and I’d still screw it up. It’s much easier for me to pay a mechanic and have it done right – and often come out paying less in the long run.
But believe me, some things are possible to do without lawyers. I got the idea to go to law school after handling a small claims case myself when I was in high school. I loved being in court, and decided to learn more – now more than 12 years later, here I am!
(Howard Zimmerle is a lawyer with offices in Rock Island and Davenport. You can contact him at hzimmerle [at] mjwlaw.com or 309-794-1660).