Providing high-quality legal assistance & equal access to justice to low-income people...

LSEM Frequently Asked Questions

What is LSEM?
Legal Services of Eastern Missouri (LSEM) provides free legal services in non-criminal, civil cases to low-income and elderly residents in 21 counties in eastern Missouri.

Is LSEM a government agency?
No. LSEM is a private non-profit corporation governed by a local Board of Directors.

Do I need to live in a certain area to be represented by LSEM?
We assist clients in the following 21 counties of eastern Missouri: Adair, Clark, Franklin, Jefferson, Knox, Lewis, Lincoln, Macon, Marion, Monroe, Montgomery, Pike, Ralls, Schuyler, Scotland, Shelby, St. Charles, St. Louis City, St. Louis County, Warren, Washington.

If you live in any of Missouri's 94 other counties, please visit to locate your local legal aid office.

Does everyone have a "right" to an attorney at LSEM?
No, no-one has a "right" to help from LSEM. Not every civil legal issue may be eligible for actual representation. Before a case is accepted, the case must be determined to have legal merit and meet LSEM priorities, and the applicant must be financially eligible.

Because LSEM does not have the financial resources to serve all applicants who ask for our help, many persons are sadly turned away. Many other people may receive limited representation, are given advice only, or are referred to another agency.

Will I have to pay a fee for obtaining legal services from LSEM?
No, you do not have to pay any attorney fees, but there may be some other kinds of costs related to court proceedings that you might have to pay.

Who is eligible for legal services?
Applicants must qualify for our services under financial guidelines. These guidelines are based on household size, income and assets and may differ based on legal need or funding availability. Eligibility requirements also include a consideration of assets, case type, and priorities.

Eligibility may be extended beyond the standard limits when alternative grant funding is received that allows expansion of those guidelines. Some grants allow us to serve groups such as non-profit organizations. Not all who qualify on the basis of income will receive services. Availability of funding and staff to handle a case impact our ability to serve all who call us for help. We try every day to raise more funds to be able to help more eligible persons who call, but sadly we must turn many away.

What kind of information will I be asked if I apply for services?
You will be asked about your household's income, the property you own, your zip code, your assets, family size and composition, age, race and citizenship or immigration status. We will also ask about your type of legal problem and any other persons or entities involved in it. It is extremely helpful if you have any paperwork about your legal problem available, and any deadlines that apply.

Will my information be kept confidential?
Yes. All information you give us is confidential and will not be given to anyone without your permission.

Does LSEM have interpreters for non-English speaking clients?
Yes. LSEM offers interpreter services for non-English speaking and hearing impaired applicants for service. If you need an interpreter, your request should be made when you make your first call to the intake line.

What kind of cases does LSEM handle?
LSEM considers accepting cases in most areas of civil law. The most common are: Housing, Domestic Violence, Special Education, Public Benefits, Consumer Issues, Domestic Violence and related Family Law, Immigration and Community Economic Development. More details can be found in LSEM Services.

We do not handle criminal and certain other cases—see next question below.

What are some examples of cases that LSEM does NOT handle?
LSEM does not handle personal injury, traffic law, bankruptcies, or criminal cases. LSEM also does not handle divorces or other family law cases unless directly related to a domestic violence or abuse situation.

How do we decide whether to accept a case?
Unfortunately, LSEM does not have the financial or staff resources to represent everyone who needs our services. Because of this, we have to make decisions on which cases take priority.

In each case, we will consider whether the person will suffer serious harm if we don't represent them; what, if anything, we can do to help them; whether the service they need can be provided by a private attorney for no fee or a low fee; and the availability of resources and staff to handle a case. We also consider the effect that the case will have on the low-income community as a whole.

Does LSEM represent groups?
LSEM is interested in representing groups and organizations, such as a non-profit entity, because this allows us to serve a greater number of people more effectively. A group or organization is eligible for our services if it mainly contains low-income people, or if it serves the interests of the low-income community, and cannot afford private legal counsel.

Can LSEM refer me to a private attorney?
If LSEM cannot assist you, you can call the following resources for a referral to a private attorney:

The Missouri Bar Lawyer Search

Use LawyerSearch to find a lawyer currently accepting new clients. Not all Missouri lawyers are listed in LawyerSearch - only those who have indicated they would like to be included. You can search by areas of practice or location (city or county). You will find a list of lawyers who have indicated they are accepting new clients in various areas of the law. Included in the listing for these lawyers you will also find office addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and links to their firms' websites (if they have them).

To use this service go to the The Missouri Bar website or click here.

Disclaimer: The purpose of this directory is to provide contact information to individuals looking for an attorney. Inclusion on this list does not constitute an endorsement by The Missouri Bar of particular attorneys.

When should I seek legal advice?
Whenever you are unsure about your legal standing on an issue. Especially any time you have been served with a summons, complaint or court order of any kind, you should consult an attorney immediately. If you have questions about your legal rights or status, only an attorney can provide legal advice. Consulting an attorney may be necessary to protect or enforce your rights.

Why can't I ask legal questions through this website?
All legal services provided by LSEM, representation in legal matters as well as simple counsel and advice, requires screening to determine eligibility. At this time, we do not have the capability for clients to submit applications for legal services via our website.

How do I get help for my legal problem from LSEM?
For more information, please visit our Get Help Now page.