The NAD Law and Advocacy Center is available as an information, advocacy, and legal resource. Although we can accept only a few discrimination cases at a time, we spend a lot of time talking to other lawyers, explaining to them legal aspects related to being deaf or hard of hearing, and representation of deaf and hard of hearing clients. You may contact us any time and you can ask your lawyer to contact us for special expertise.
How to Find a Lawyer
Many people prefer to find a lawyer who is deaf or hard of hearing, a lawyer who understands and is familiar with deaf and hard of hearing people, or a lawyer who knows American Sign Language.
However, you need a lawyer who is experienced in your type of legal problem. Like doctors, most lawyers have expertise in specific areas of the law. For example, a lawyer who defends people accused of a crime might not be a good choice if you need a divorce. When you contact lawyers, ask them if they have experience with your kind of legal problem. If they do not, ask them if they can recommend a lawyer who can handle your kind of legal problem.
Most people – hearing, hard of hearing, or deaf – are puzzled about how to find a lawyer to help them with their legal problem. The NAD Law and Advocacy Center does not keep a list of lawyers in the United States. However, here are some tips to help you find an advocate or lawyer in your state who may be able to help you with a discrimination or other legal problem:
- Ask your family, co-workers, and friends if they have used a lawyer and if they were satisfied with the lawyer’s work.
- Look in your telephone book yellow pages under “lawyers” or “attorneys.” There will probably be many listings, and some of them will identify the kind of legal problems they handle.
- Go to the public library, and ask for the reference librarian. The librarian can help you use a directory of lawyers to find a local lawyer who handles legal problems like yours. One directory is called Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory.
- Contact your state’s office that serves people who are deaf or hard of hearing, or the office that serves people with disabilities, for advocacy support and information about advocacy and legal services in your state.
- The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) is the largest provider of legally-based disability discrimination advocacy services in the United States. There is at least one NDRN office in every state and territory. The nickname for these offices is “Protection and Advocacy” or “P&A.” Go to www.ndrn.org to find the P&A office in your state.
Your state’s P&A office may be able to help you – if you have a disability discrimination question or problem.
If your state’s P&A office cannot help you, they may be able to give you names of lawyers in your state who may be able to help you.
- Search the Internet for your state’s name and the words “bar association” (the association for lawyers licensed in your state) (for example, search for “Maryland Bar Association”). Most state bar associations have a “lawyer referral” program. They may give you the names of several lawyers who handle your type of legal problem. Often, there will be a low cost for the first consultation. After you meet the lawyer, the lawyer will explain his or her usual fee arrangements and you can decide if you want to hire that lawyer.
- If you are unemployed or have a very low income, you may be eligible for free legal help from your local legal aid society, legal services office, or a nearby law school’s legal clinic program. Your state’s bar association may have information about these services, too.
- If you are charged with a crime, you may be eligible for a court-appointed lawyer or public defender.
Communicating with Your Lawyer – Part of a Team
It is important to help your lawyer help you. You are part of a team to solve your legal problem.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires lawyers to provide equal access to their services by providing accommodations necessary to communicate effectively with you. These accommodations include qualified interpreters, CART, and assistive listening devices. For more information, see Lawyers and Legal Services.
Communication with a lawyer is very important. Explain your communication needs clearly. It is important to be able to understand each other so you can explain your situation and the lawyer can explain your legal options. You may have to explain how to use the relay system or how to use an interpreter.
Call in advance to make appointments to see your lawyer. If you cannot make it to your appointment, let the lawyer know ahead of time, especially if the lawyer had to hire an interpreter or other services to communicate with you! If you do not understand legal words, ask the lawyer to explain what they mean! It may also be helpful and may save the lawyer time (and save you money) to use alternatives such as fax and email to ask and answer some questions.
If your lawyer is unable to communicate effectively with you, needs information about the ADA, or has questions about representing and working with clients who are deaf or hard of hearing, ask your lawyer to contact the NAD Law and Advocacy Center.
Tips for Working with Your Lawyer
- Make sure you understand the lawyer’s rates and billing system. Ask questions if you are not sure about the lawyer’s fees or the expenses you will pay.
- Be prepared when you meet with a lawyer. Bring all paperwork connected with your legal problem. It may be helpful to write out your questions ahead of time.
- Be upfront with the lawyer. Tell the lawyer everything you can about the situation. Don’t hide information or facts or think that they are not important. Let the lawyer decide what is important!
- Don’t wait too long before you contact a lawyer. Investigating a legal problem and preparing legal papers take time. Give your lawyer enough time to do a good job.