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Frequently Asked Questions

Eligibility and Locations

Who is eligible for your free legal services?

  • Low-income residents of Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, and Sarasota counties
  • Domestic violence survivors, for certain legal problems, thoughout our service area, regardless of income
  • Seniors who live in Hillsborough and Pasco counties, and those eligible seniors living in other Florida counties through the Florida Senior Legal Helpline
  • Nonprofits and community groups that serve low-income individuals or distressed communities (Special Programs)
  • Clients who qualify under other Special Programs, such as foreclosure counseling, tax assistance, and fair housing problems

What geographic area do you serve?
Our service area includes Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, and Sarasota counties.

How can I find legal services outside of your service area?
Florida Legal Services provides a list of legal services and legal aid organizations throughout Florida.

 

How to Apply

How can I receive help from Bay Area Legal Services?
You may apply over the telephone through our Call Center. Hillsborough County residents call 813.232.1343; Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, and Sarasota County residents call 800.625.2257; and applicants with a hearing impairment who live in our service area may call 800.955.8771/TTY. You may also apply online by clicking on the “Florida Online Intake” icon provided in green on the panel located on the right side of this page.

What can I expect when I call BALS?
You will talk with a telephone screener, who will ask you a few questions to determine whether you qualify. If you do, you will likely be scheduled a telephone appointment with one of our attorneys or paralegals. If you do not, our screeners will offer information about other options in your community.

Can I apply online?
Yes. You may access our online application by clicking on the “Florida Online Intake” icon provided in green on the panel located on the right side of this page.

Can I apply in person?
All applications are taken over the telephone or submitted online. If you come to one of our offices, you will be directed to a telephone that connects to our Call Center.

 

Services Provided by BALS

What types of legal matters do you handle?
We provide services for many civil legal problems, including family law, housing, consumer, employment, and public benefits.

What types of legal matters are you unable to handle?
Criminal, traffic, personal injury, and workers' compensation.

Do I have to pay for your services?
No. If you do not meet our eligibility requirements we cannot represent you, even if you offer to pay. If you do qualify, you will not be charged for legal services. However, you may have to pay any applicable filing fees (most clients will qualify for a waiver from the court), and other case-related expenses.

If I am eligible, what type of services will I receive?
All eligible clients receive legal advice. Because we have limited resources we are not able to provide legal representation to all eligible clients.

What can I do if you are unable to take my case?
We will try to refer you to other organizations, but if there are no resources in your community, we will advise you how to proceed on your own.

Can I get help with filling out court documents?
Yes, for specific types of cases. If you want a referral for forms assistance, our screeners can refer you. Click to view BALS Self-Help and Links page.

What services do you offer for small businesses?
We help eligible nonprofits and community groups with incorporation and other legal issues. (Special Programs)

Do you offer educational programs?
Yes. We provide speakers, community outreach, and seminars through our legal and development teams, as well as through our volunteer lawyers program. Please review the topics and sections of our website for more information.

 

Volunteering and Donating

How can I help BALS?
BALS welcomes financial contributions, and donations of time and expertise.

How much of each donated dollar goes into client services?
More than 90 cents.