Legal Help for People who Can’t Afford It
The Washington State Bar Association developed the Moderate Means Program to fill gaps in the justice system and increase access to legal representation for people. It connects people who cannot afford the cost of typical legal representation with attorneys and other legal professionals willing to represent them on a sliding fee.
In 2016, more than 2 million people in Washington fell between 200% and 400% of the Federal Poverty Level (see poverty guidelines below) – a moderate income. They probably could not afford a full-fee attorney if they needed one, and they do not qualify for free legal aid from programs for people with low income. The statewide Moderate Means Program strives to bridge that gap with reduced-fee assistance in legal cases involving family, housing, consumer, and unemployment issues.
Apply Online or Call 855-741-6930
The Moderate Means program is a partnership between the Washington State Bar Association and the law schools of Gonzaga University, Seattle University, and the University of Washington. The WSBA Board of Governors and private funding through the Washington State Bar Foundation support the program.
In fall 2019, the program introduced limited license legal technicians (LLLT) to its panel of legal professionals, hoping to provide more reduced-cost options for clients seeking assistance with family law matters.
Because the COVID-19 pandemic upended millions of lives with sudden unemployment, the Moderate Means Program added unemployment benefits to the types of cases it makes referrals for.
The program is not able to handle urgent legal needs as referrals may take some time. It also cannot guarantee a referral, particularly in some rural communities where attorney resources are limited.
The legal professionals participating in the Moderate Means Program are solely liable for their actions. Neither WSBA nor law schools are responsible for services received.
Am I Eligible?
To be eligible for the Moderate Means Program, you must be facing a family, housing, consumer law, or unemployment benefits issue.
What constitutes a family, consumer, housing law, or unemployment benefits issue?
Family Law — Separation or divorce, guardianship, child custody or visitation, child support, personal safety due to family member, establish the biological father of a child, adoption and juvenile dependency matters
Consumer Law — Debt, problems with a payday lender or debt collector, legal issue involving the purchase, financing or repair of a vehicle, legal issue regarding utilities (water, electricity, garbage), victim of unfair or deceptive sales practice, victim of identity theft, and bankruptcy (Chapters 7 or 13)
Housing Law — Trouble with rental housing or a landlord, eviction, unfair denial of housing and repair issues
Unemployment Benefits — Difficulty obtaining state or federal unemployment benefits despite being eligible.
Is my annual household income between 200% and 400% of the federal poverty level?
2020 Federal Poverty Levels
200% of Federal Poverty Level
400% of Federal Poverty Level
How Do I Get Assistance?
First determine if you are eligible for this program's services for legal help. Applying online is the fastest way to process your request. If you can’t apply online or have trouble with the application, please call our toll free intake line at 855-741-6930.
After you have applied, a law student will call you within three to five business days to get information about your legal issue and make a referral.
Please note: the WSBA Moderate Means Program will be temporarily closed and not accepting new applications Aug. 23– Sept. 6. Please check back here after 9 a.m. Sept. 7 to apply online.
Once you speak with a law student and determined eligible for the program, the law student will try to place your case with an attorney or a Limited Legal Licensed Technician (LLLT). If a legal professional is available, the law student will provide you with their name and contact information. You are responsible for contacting the legal professional. WSBA and the law schools will not schedule appointments between you and the legal professional.
How Much Will the Attorney or LLLT Charge?
There is no set amount for an attorney or LLLT to charge. Both attorneys and LLLTs have agreed to reduce their fees on a sliding scale and request an advanced deposit. Be sure to agree on charges before accepting their services. Written fee agreements are always highly encouraged.
What if I Don't Qualify?
If you do not have an issue that fits within the areas listed above or your income is below 200% of the FPL, review our Find Legal Help page for additional resources.