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Legal Research Guide for Public Patrons: Self-Help Resources

The purpose of this LibGuide is to provide legal resources for individuals without any formal legal training.

How to Locate Self-Help Resources

The best place to begin when searching for self-help resources in your state is to check out your state's bar association. State bar association websites often have lists of resources available to self-represented litigants. You can also see if there are local bar associations with available or recommended resources. Additionally, court websites may have lists of useful resources. It is important to find resources for your specific jurisdiction; just because a resource is available in a different state does not mean it is applicable in your own. Similarly, some rules and resources will vary in different counties in the same state.

State Resources

There are many self-help resources in Georgia for pro se litigants. You can get in touch with any one of these groups to see how they can help you or redirect you to appropriate services.

  • Atlanta Legal Aid: This program serves residents in metro Atlanta (Clayton, Cobb, Dekalb, Fulton, Gwinnett). There are a variety of special projects (senior citizens, health law, pro bono, etc.) run by this group.
  • Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution: This Commission provides a list of alternative dispute resolution resources that give Georgians lower-cost choices to resolve legal issues.
  • Georgia Free Legal Answers: Prior to asking a legal question, users must fill out a survey to see if they qualify. For users that do qualify, they may ask volunteering attorneys for legal advice. Questions may be about divorce, eviction, employment, or other legal issues. The volunteering attorneys work on a pro bono basis, so this is a free service for qualifying users.
  • Georgia Legal Aid: This program is designed to help low income individuals receive legal advice. This resource contains brochures about child support and bankruptcy, as well as self-help videos for how to apply for Medicaid or where to seek help from domestic violence.
  • Georgia Legal Services Program: This group serves all counties not covered by Atlanta Legal Aid. Legal services include family law, housing, access to public benefits, eviction prevention, and more.
  • Middle Georgia Justice: This program serves several middle Georgia counties (Bibb, Houston, Peach, Crawford, Jones, Monroe, and Twiggs). Middle GA Justice focuses on family law/domestic cases. This program offers legal research services to qualifying individuals; more information can be found here.
  • Southern Judicial Circuit of Georgia: This circuit serves several counties in south Georgia (Brooks, Colquitt, Echols, Lowndes, and Thomas). There are self-help forms for pro se parties available for issues ranging from criminal law to domestic violence.

A variety of other self-help resources are available on the Judicial Council of Georgia's website here. There is a Judicial Council Standing Committee on Access to Justice (A2J) that prioritizes compiling self-help resources for Georgia residents.

Other Resources

  • Paul Bergman & Sara J. Berman, Represent Yourself in Court: How to Prepare & Try a Winning Case (7th ed. 2010). This book is designed to help pro se litigants represent themselves in civil legal matters. It includes things like how to file court documents, present a persuasive argument, understand and apply evidentiary rules, and more.
     
  • Federal Bar Association, Representing Yourself in Federal District Court: A Handbook for Pro Se Litigants (2019). This free handbook can be accessed online here. Most legal matters will be litigated in state court, but it is possible for a pro se litigant to find themselves in federal court. This handbook is aimed at nonlawyers and contains filing tips, appropriate methods of service, common objections, and more. This resource also recommends alternative dispute resolutions such as mediation and arbitration. It is important for pro se litigants to know about options other than suing, which makes this an excellent comprehensive resource.

Know Your Options

There are circumstances in which pro se litigants may benefit from a limited scope of representation by a licensed attorney. The American Bar Association (ABA) Model Rule 1.2(c) allows attorneys to limit the scope of representation to assist pro se litigants. For an analysis of this rule and other principles, read the following journal article: American Bar Association, An Analysis of Rules that Enable Lawyers to Serve Pro Se Litigants, 45 Fam. L.Q. 64 (2011).

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