Finding a Lawyer
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Even if you plan to represent yourself in court, it is important to talk with a lawyer to understand some of the options and risks in your case. All lawyers licensed to practice law in Alaska must be members of the Alaska Bar Association which includes an on-line directory of names and contact information. Court staff, including Family Law Self-Help Center staff, cannot provide specific attorney recommendations.
Note: Click on a question to expand or collapse content.
A lawyer can:
- Give you advice about the best course of action to take in a case
- Draft paperwork to file in court
- Communicate with the opposing party or their lawyer if represented
- Figure out what is the most helpful evidence to present in your case
- Prepare you to give testimony in court
- Represent you in court proceedings
- Question witnesses and the opposing party in court
You can hire a lawyer to represent you for your whole case or for part of your case or just to give you some advice. It is up to you to decide what kind of help you need and what you can afford to pay the lawyer. You need to negotiate what level of services you want the lawyer to provide.
Some attorneys are willing to provide limited scope legal services to clients. This is called "unbundled services" or discrete task representation. Instead of hiring an attorney for full representation, the client hires the attorney to perform a specific service that they both agree upon. This may involve:
- Giving legal advice and strategizing for the case
- Reviewing correspondence and court papers
- Preparing documents to be filed in the court
- Negotiating with the opposing party or their attorney
- Doing legal research and analysis
- Planning for court appearances
The Alaska Bar Association has created a list of attorneys who provide Unbundled Legal Services. Please note this list includes only those attorneys who have requested to participate - it does not include all members of the Alaska Bar Association. You can also contact individual attorneys to see if they will do unbundled services.
Alaska Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service: (907)272-0352, (800)770-9999 (outside Anchorage), Monday - Friday 8:30 am - Noon; 1:00 - 4:00 pm
This service provides you with the names and phone numbers of three attorneys who practice in the area of law you need help with. If you use one of those three attorneys, you are guaranteed a rate of $125 or less for the first half hour of their time. Please note that this service includes only those attorneys who have requested to participate - it does not include all members of the Alaska Bar Association.
Unbundled Legal Services: The Alaska Bar Association has created a list of attorneys who provide Unbundled Legal Services. Please note this list includes only those attorneys who have requested to participate - it does not include all members of the Alaska Bar Association. You can also contact individual attorneys to see if they will do unbundled services.
Word of Mouth: Talk with family and friends who may have gone through a similar legal issue and learn whether they can refer to a specific lawyer.
Yellow Pages & Online Directories: Most attorneys advertise in the yellow pages or online directories.
Some organizations and private attorneys offer free or low-cost legal services. Unfortunately, the need for free legal services is greater than the number of lawyers who are available to provide them. Contact the organizations listed below to see if you qualify for legal assistance.
If you are a member of a union or through your employer, you may have a benefit for legal services that are free or cover a specific amount of fees.
Also, if you are involved in a lawsuit from a car accident or issue at your house, contact the company that provides your car insurance or homeowners insurance because they often provide legal assistance for those matters.
Alaska Legal Services Corporation (ALSC) is a private, nonprofit law firm that provides free civil legal assistance to low-income Alaskans. Contact ALSC to see if you qualify for services.
Alaska Network on Domestic Violence Pro Bono Program provides free lawyers to domestic violence victims in certain cases involving custody, divorce, housing, public assistance and probate. Contact your local domestic violence program to see if you qualify for legal services.
Alaska Immigration Justice Project provides low-cost immigration assistance to immigrants and refugees in all immigration applications including citizenship, permanent resident status, work permits, asylum, family-based petitions and immigration petitions for immigrant victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking. Contact AIJP to see if you qualify for services.
Disability Law Center of Alaska provides free legal advocacy for people with disabilities in Alaska in Social Security and public benefit appeals, employment or housing discrimination, cases involving access to special education programs, businesses, services and voting and cases involving financial exploitation. They do not generally take family law cases or criminal cases. Their website contains a list of the kinds of cases they generally take and those they do not.
Alaska Free Legal Answers is a free web-based service where you can get answers to legal questions if you meet the income requirements. Once qualified, you can post your civil legal question so a volunteer attorney can respond to your question by email. You may ask up to three civil legal questions a year. It may take up to 30 days for a response, and if it appears that your question cannot be answered online, you may be referred to a local legal service agency to assist you with your legal issue. Visit alaska.freelegalanswers.org and follow the registration steps.
Private lawyers are sometimes willing to take a case pro bono which means they do the case for free for low income clients. Some lawyers are willing to do cases for reduced fees. You can always ask a lawyer to take your case pro bono or for a reduced fee.
If the other parent or spouse has money to hire a lawyer because they have control of the marital money or a much higher income, you can ask the court to order them to help you pay for a lawyer. You will have to ask the court for this by written motion, and include detailed information about your financial circumstances. You must also give the other side a copy of everything you file with the court. Read What if I need an order before my final hearing or before receiving a judgment?
Generally, free legal assistance from the military legal assistance office is provided to the following groups:
- All members of the Armed Forces on active duty (including members of a reserve component),
- Reservists released from active duty, having served 30 days or more,
- Retirees from all branches of the service, and
- Lawful dependents. Federal civilian employees and their dependents are also entitled to legal assistance in certain circumstances.
However, providing legal assistance is based on available resources and personnel. Veterans are not eligible for free legal services.
Military lawyers are called Judge advocates (JAG). A JAG is an attorney who has graduated from an accredited law school, and is licensed to practice law by the highest court of a state or by a federal court. JAGs who help individuals with personal legal problems are known as legal assistance attorneys. JAGs can offer help in legal and non-legal matters ranging from buying a car to renting an apartment, buying a home, paying taxes or writing a will.
Legal assistance offices are located on almost every base, ship and installation. If you have trouble finding legal assistance, find the office nearest your location:
- Armed Forces Legal Assistance Directory: https://aflegalassistance.law.af.mil
- Army: https://myarmybenefits.us.army.mil
- Navy/Marine Corps: http://www.jag.navy.mil/legal_services.htm
- Coast Guard: https://www.uscg.mil/Resources/legal/Legal_Assistance/
- DoD Military Installation Directory
Each military service has specific regulations regarding the extent of legal assistance they provide. For more information, contact your legal assistance office.
- Make sure the lawyer is a member of the Alaska Bar Association and in active status.
- Make sure the lawyer has malpractice insurance.
- Ask friends and family or people you respect if they have any recommended lawyers. If some of the same names get mentioned, talk to those lawyers to see if they may be a good fit for you and the issues in your case. Do you feel like you trust the lawyer to give you good advice and help to problem-solve? Do you feel comfortable being totally honest with the lawyer about the issues in your case?
- Interview the lawyer to decide if you can work with her / him based on both of your personalities and communication styles.
- Ask about their philosophy in handling court cases.
- Is the lawyer a problem-solver and interested in trying to help you to resolve the case without a trial by reaching an agreement with the other side?
- Is the lawyer more comfortable litigating in a trial?
- Is the lawyer supportive of alternative dispute resolution processes like mediation or collaborative law?
- Discuss both your and the lawyer’s expectations and preferences about
- responsiveness – how long before the lawyer can typically return phone calls?
- preparation – what will be involved to get ready to file papers and appear in court for hearings and trial?
- working with other members of their staff – will other lawyers, paralegals and legal assistants work with you?
- Does the lawyer have experience in the type of case you have?
- If there is a lawyer representing the other side in the case, ask whether he/she can work with the other lawyer and ask what kind of relationship they have?
- Ask if the lawyer is a member of any bar sections? Look to see if they are a member of the section that deals with the type of case you have.
- Ask the lawyer if they do continuing legal education and stay up to speed on new areas important to your case type?
- Ask the lawyer if they have any bar leadership positions?
- Ask about their philosophy in handling court cases.
- Discuss the lawyer’s fees.
- Does the lawyer charge for an initial interview and if so, how much?
- If your issue is routine, does the lawyer have a standard fee and if so, what does it cover?
- If your issue is complicated or the lawyers doesn’t charge a standard fee, what is their hourly rate?
- Does the lawyer require a retainer and how much of the case will it likely cover? Will it be enough for trial? What happens once the retainer is ½ way spent or fully spent?
- Check to see if the lawyer has had any public discipline – suspension or was disbarred. Call the Alaska Bar Association at 907-272-7469.
Learn more at the selecting a lawyer on the Alaska Bar Association’s website.
The "Collaborative Law" process is an out-of-court alternative for couples who wish to avoid the cost, stress and unpredictability of divorce litigation. Each party hires an attorney who is trained in the collaborative law practice. Working together as a team in joint sessions, the parties, their attorneys and allied professionals identify the needs, interests and priorities of each family member as well as the areas where the parties disagree. The Collaborative "team" then assists the parties in using problem-solving strategies to resolve these disagreements and to arrive at a carefully thought out settlement, which meet the needs of each family member. The Alaska Association of Collaborative Professionals are the attorneys in Alaska who have received collaborative law training.
Mediation is a great option for people who want to reach an agreement and avoid a trial. You can mediate if you are representing yourself or represented by a lawyer. Learn more about mediation.