You've identified a legal problem or question and have decided to seek legal counsel. Use the information below to find your Legal Assistance Office and schedule an appointment. And to get the most out of the time you spend with your attorney, know what to expect and how to prepare to help your lawyer provide the best possible advice and service.
Where to go
Legal Assistance Offices are located on almost every installation and ship. Use the Armed Forces Legal Services locator and search by branch of service, proximity to a ZIP code, or state. The Legal Services Locator returns addresses, phone numbers, websites (when available), maps, and driving directions to all Legal Assistance Offices meeting the search criteria.
Also, MilitaryINSTALLATIONS provides contact information for programs and services and maps and directions for military installations worldwide. Contact information for installation Legal Assistance Offices can be found under "Legal Services/JAG" in the "Select a program or service" drop-down menu in the "Looking for a specific program or service?" box on the home page.
Who you'll meet with
The legal assistance attorney may be either a military Judge Advocate or a civilian attorney authorized by the JAG to provide legal assistance such as advising clients on personal legal affairs.
Only lawyers in a Legal Assistance Office may provide legal advice or interpretation of how the law might apply to your particular situation. Paralegals and administrative clerks, who also work in Legal Assistance Offices, may provide services and information in support of your case.
At the meeting
Your lawyer needs complete and accurate information to serve you to the best of his or her ability. Following these tips will help your attorney effectively address current and any future legal problems:
- Be prepared. Bring all papers and documents that pertain to your situation with you when you meet with an attorney.
- Speak freely. Speak freely to him or her about your situation and relate all the facts you know -- whether good or bad. Provide all specific details -- no matter how important or unimportant you believe them to be. (See the section below on privileged communications.) Information received from a client during legal assistance and documents relating to the client are legally confidential and privileged.
- Understand that some legal services are not available. Legal assistance services are intended to address personal civil and consumer matters. Certain issues are outside the scope of legal assistance. If those issues come up during a conversation with a legal assistance attorney, he or she will not be able to discuss or assist further, outside of referring to civilian counsel. Example of those issues include the following:
- Business or commercial enterprises, except in relation to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act
- Criminal issues (military member should contact Area Defense Counsel instead)
- Standards of ethical conduct issues
- Law of armed conflict issues
- Official matters in which the Air Force has an interest, such as the Reports of Survey program
- Legal concerns or issues raised on behalf of another person
- Legal issues involving private organizations
- Representation of a client in a civilian court or administrative proceeding
- Drafting or reviewing real estate sales or closing documents, separation agreements, divorce decrees, or inter vivos trusts unless the staff judge advocate determines an individual attorney within the office has the necessary expertise
- Don't expect phone or e-mail resolutions. For the client's privacy and protection, attorneys will not discuss cases or give advice over the telephone or via e-mail.
- Seek advice for any potential legal problems. Remember that preventing a legal problem is simpler and less costly than attempting to solve an existing one.
The quality of the legal advice you receive depends entirely on the amount and quality of the information you provide. The attorney must know all the facts. Be assured that any information provided to or files held by, Legal Assistance Offices are private and privileged under law and professional rules of conduct and guidelines. Information or documents related to a client cannot be disclosed to anyone unless the client provides specific permission to do so or the legal assistance attorney determines that disclosure of the information is authorized or required by law or professional rules of conduct.
Most services provided in a Legal Assistance Office (such as reviewing or preparing legal documents or simply consulting with an attorney) are provided at no cost to eligible personnel. You pay any court or agency fees.
If in-court representation is required, legal attorneys can help refer you to private civilian counsel. Also, certain cases may be referred to the American Bar Association's Legal Assistance for Military Personnel, where pro bono (no cost) representation may be provided, in appropriate cases. Ask your legal assistance attorney to see if your case may be appropriate for an ABA LAMP referral.
If the Legal Assistance Office cannot handle the case, you may be referred to an outside attorney, at your expense.