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Legal Services Office (LSO)

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Frequently Asked Questions

How do I obtain assistance and what is the process?

You can call, email, write or walk-into the office to get the process started. You will speak to a clerk that will take your contact information and basic information about your case. The clerk will provide the intake to the Managing Attorney. The Managing Attorney will review the intake form and make a decision as to whether the matter is appropriate for LSO to handle. If LSO accepts your case, the clerk will contact you to schedule an appointment with an advocate/attorney as soon as possible. If LSO cannot assist, LSO will attempt to provide information as to where you may get help.

Will I be seen the same day I request assistance?

Unless your matter is a true emergency, you will likely not been seen the same day you call/walk-in for assistance. The main reason is because of the attorney's/advocate's schedules, which is affected by other client appointments, court hearings, meetings, etc.

Who will handle my case?

LSO hires Attorneys who are admitted to practice in state court and federal court and Advocates who are admitted to practice in Community Court. The office also has staff who are admitted in local tribal courts. Most legal service Attorneys and Advocates choose to work for a legal service office because of their professional and personal goals; to provide important legal assistance and services for those in need. The LSO staff includes individuals who are professional and experienced attorneys, advocates, paralegals, legal secretaries, and clerks. As with any legal office, LSO staff have a priority in maintaining client confidentiality.

Occasionally, cases may be referred to private, outside counsel. If this occurs, the referral will be discussed with the client prior to the case being referred to outside counsel.

Member vs. Member?

LSO does not directly represent a community member against another community member, unless (1) the opposing community member has already secured an Advocate/Attorney for representation or (2) the matter is uncontested or (3) in limited discretionary cases as outlined by the department's policies.

If the case is member vs. member, LSO is able to assist with providing legal advice and/or preparing pleadings for court, unless the office has a conflict as described herein.

What if LSO doesn't handle my type of case, or if I am not eligible for services?

If the LSO staff are unable to assist you, they will work to refer you to the other agencies or programs that may be able to assist you. LSO may also provide printed materials for informational purposes.

Why did my case get rejected?

While we strive to assist everyone, sometimes our office is unable to do so. The following might be reasons why a case was rejected:

  1. Outside Office Scope – Our Attorneys/Advocates are very knowledgeable in many areas of law. However, if a case is outside our areas of experience, it is legally unethical to accept a case that our staff is unable or unqualified to handle. Some common examples are wrongful termination, employment issues with the SRPMIC government or entities, and medical malpractice. Additionally, LSO is unable to bring an action against the Community.
  2. Conflict of Interest – The duty of loyalty owed to a client prohibits an Attorney/Advocate from representing a specific community member because of a previous and/or current client. This may include the following situations: (1) the representation of one client will be in direct conflict to another client or (2) there is a significant risk that the representation of one or more clients will be materially limited by the attorney's/advocate's responsibilities to another client, a former client or a third person or by a personal interest of the attorney/advocate. An Attorney/Advocate who has formerly represented a client in a matter cannot, thereafter, represent another person in the same or a substantially related matter in which that person's interests are materially adverse to the interests of the former client. For example, LSO cannot represent the father in a modification for child support hearing when LSO formally represented the mother in the initial child support hearing.
  3. GAL – Our office is routinely appointed by the court as a Guardian Ad Litem. Our role is to represent the best interests of the minor child and/or mentally ill adult/child and to make recommendations to the court regarding the issue(s) before it.

Finally, due to the Rules of Confidentiality, LSO may not be able to disclose why our office has a conflict. For example, our office cannot disclose to a potential client that our office cannot assist them with their legal issue because we have already previously advised and/or represented the other client.

Does LSO charge for their services?

LSO does not charge for their services. On personal injury cases (auto accidents/slip and fall), LSO reserves the right to a 20% contingent fee which will be paid to LSO upon the settlement being paid. Additionally, all clients are responsible for all costs necessary for their case; such as court costs, service of process fees, expert witness fees, investigation costs, court transcripts, depositions and costs for obtaining documents and discovery costs. LSO may advance these costs for you and will advise you of all costs before paying for them. Any costs that LSO has advanced for their client will be billed on a quarterly basis. The department requests that you timely pay your bill because this helps our Office to continue to provide this service to other Members.