Resources for Self-Represented Litigants
Note: This page offers free internet resources for people representing themselves in court. In addition to highlighting free legal resources available on websites, the Cook County Law Library offers free access to excellent legal resources at the Daley Center location and at our five branch locations. Check the Library catalog to find specific titles.
Self-represented litigants in Cook County can also access free legal information, advice, and referrals by calling the Coordinated Advice and Referral Program for Legal Services (CARPLS) Legal Aid Hotline at (312) 738-9200.
- EBSCO Legal Information Reference Center - The Reference Center contains books, written in plain English, about the law and how to handle legal situations. General legal forms are also included. This subscription service is available for you to use at home or office, 24/7. Login info is provided.
- Illinois Legal Aid - A web-based resource for information about your legal rights and responsibilities. Search for articles and forms for all types of frequently encountered legal issues in over 25 areas of law. Includes resources organized by practice area and a comprehensive collection of legal forms. Online assistance is available. Also includes resources for legal aid providers.
- Legal Information - 12 topics ranging from business to disaster services. From the Illinois State Bar Association.
- Consumers’ Guide to Legal Help: Illinois (ABA) - Links to lawyer referral services, free legal assistance and legal information. Links available for other states.
- Practical Law (ABA) - Includes information on family law, autos, consumer law, real estate, workplace, and healthcare law.
- Legal Topics A-Z - Legal information arranged by topic. Includes useful charts and articles. From National Center for State Courts.
- Cornell Legal Information Institute - Links to the sources of the law and Wex, a legal dictionary/encyclopedia.
- Clerk of the Circuit Court Forms - Searchable and fillable Cook County Circuit Court forms.
- Illinois Standardized State Forms - From the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts (AOIC)
- EBSCO Legal Information Center - Written in plain English with accompanying administrative and litigation related forms.
- Going to Court - Information about court procedure and evidence. Provided by Illinois Legal Aid Online (ILAO).
- How Courts Work - Topics include: Courts and Legal Procedure, Steps in a Trial, The Human Side of Being a Judge, and Mediation. From ABA Division of Public Education.
- Resources for Self-Represented Litigants in Federal Court - Forms, guide, and instructions for filing case in federal court.
- Filing Court Papers for Free - Information on fee waiver procedures. From Illinois Legal Aid Online (ILAO).
State Legal Information
- Finding Illinois Law: A Librarian’s Guide for Non-Lawyers - Chapters on how to read a legal citation, basic legal research techniques, and a glossary of legal terms with emphasis on Illinois law. From the Chicago Association of Law Libraries (CALL).
- LawHelp.org - Lists nonprofit legal aid providers in other states to help find information related to housing, work, family, bankruptcy, disability, immigration and other topics.
How to Research Legal Issues
- How to Research a Legal Problem: A Guide for Non-Lawyers - Provided by the Legal Information Service to the Public Special Interest Section, American Association of Law Libraries (AALL)
- Legal Research Toolkits: - State-specific information on how to conduct legal research. Provided by the Legal Information Service to the Public Special Interest Section, American Association of Law Libraries (AALL)
- Making Sure You Have the Most Current Information - Provided by the Legal Information Service to the Public Special Interest Section, American Association of Law Libraries (AALL).
- U.S. Legal Research for Non-Lawyers - A guide from the University of Chicago D'Angelo Law Library providing an overview of the United States legal system, resources for legal research, and bibliographies of helpful titles.
- Free Electronic Legal Research - A collection of free resources including links to more than 50 topical research guides. Provided by the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law Library.
Attorneys: Help Desks, Legal Assistance Providers, and Referral Services
- IL Free Legal Answers is a free, online legal advice clinic where qualifying low-income Illinois residents can ask a volunteer lawyer a question about a civil (non-criminal) legal problem. Visit https://il.freelegalanswers.org/ for more information and to see if you qualify to use the service.
- Free or Reduced Fee Legal Aid - Resources on how to get free or reduced cost legal aid in Cook County.
- Legal Assistance Referrals - Selection of links to legal aid providers in Chicago, suburban and downstate areas compiled by the Illinois Attorney General’s office.
- Finding Freee or Low-Cost Legal Help (pdf) - Chicago Bar Foundation guide to legal aid in the Chicagoland area.
- Legal Self Help Centers - Legal self-help center staff can help you find useful information on your legal problem, but cannot provide legal advice. Links to agencies in counties outside of Cook.
Courthouse Help Desks
There are many free help desks in Chicago and suburban courthouses.
- All Cook County courthouse help desks
- Chicago Bar Foundation Legal Help handouts
If you believe you need the professional legal assistance of an attorney and want to hire an attorney, there are services to help you find legal representation. The following is a selected list of lawyer referral services and directories. The bar association referral services will match the caller with an attorney working in caller’s particular area of interest. Generally, the initial meeting involves a minimal cost to cover the administrative costs of the referral service. Before the meeting, check with the lawyer if there is any fee for their time/service. During or after your initial consultation, the lawyer will discuss the legal fees required to handle your matter. With these services there is generally no obligation on your part or the lawyer's to go beyond the first initial telephone contact or meeting.
- Chicago Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service - (312) 554-2001
- Chicago Bar Foundation Justice Entrepreneurs Project - (312) 546-3282
- A network of independant lawyers offering lower cost services, often including fixed fee or flexible representation options
- Cook County Bar Association Lawyer Referral - (312) 630-1157
- IllinoisLawyerFinder (Illinois State Bar Association) - (800) 922-8757
- North Suburban Bar Association (224) 935-6016
- Northwest Suburban Bar Association (224) 404-4845
- South Suburban Bar Association
- Southwest Bar Association of Chicago
- West Suburban Bar Association
The following sites are searchable directories of attorneys:
- Best Law Firms - Search for law firms by location and practice area. Provided by U.S. News & World Report and American Lawyer.
- Illinois Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission - The official source for checking on the registration and disciplinary background of attorneys licensed to practice in Illinois.
Disclaimer: The Cook County Law Library website is a public resource of general information which is not intended to be used as a source of legal advice. Consult a licensed attorney from your state for legal advice.
Compiled by Jean Wenger
Updated March 2019 by David Sanborne