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What does Northwestern Legal Services (NWLS) do?

  NWLS provides free legal representation to low-income, eligible clients in a variety of civil matters.


How do I become a client of NWLS? 

  You can apply for service online or call our New Client Line at 452-6957 (local Erie, PA) or 1-800-665-6957, Monday through Friday, 9:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.  You will speak with one of our Intake Screeners who will screen your eligibility for our service.  


What determines my eligibility for service?

  Your monthly income.    Your current assets.  Your family size.   The type of legal problem you have and where you reside.    


What is the current income limitation for becoming a client of NWLS?

  Applicants must meet financial and asset guidelines to be eligible for service.  Our economic guidelines are based on family size and are 125 % of the federal poverty guideline.  The income guidelines are updated annually.  For a list of our current financial guidelines, click here.


Is your service "really" free?   Are there any hidden fees?

  YES, our service is completely free.   NO, there are no hidden fees.   As stated previously, you have to be an eligible client to receive service from NWLS. 

Please call our New Client Line to see if you are eligible for our free service at:  1-800-665-6957,  local callers dial  452-6957, or simply apply online.


What type of cases does NWLS do?

  NWLS only handles civil cases.  We do not represent in criminal matters.  Click to determine the types of civil cases we currently help with.


What forms of service do you provide?

  NWLS provides service in a variety of forms, including :
  • Direct (face-to-face) representation to clients
  • Telephone advice consultation with an attorney
  • Pro bono representation provided free of charge by local private attorneys
  • Self-Help Instructional clinic classes
  • Judicare representation provided free to clients by local private attorneys

What counties in Pennsylvania do you serve? 

We serve 10 northwestern counties in Pennsylvania:  Cameron, Crawford, Elk, Erie, Forest, McKean, Mercer, Potter, Venango, Warren.  For a map of our service area, click here.  Additionally, we process referral applications for clients who wish to obtain services from legal service programs outside of our service area. 

For those seeking service in other counties in Pennsylvania, visit PALawHelp.org and those seeking service in other states, visit LawHelp.org

What educational material is available through NWLS' website that may be of assistance to me.

  • Brochures, Handouts, Self-help Guides, Pre-screen Tools, Benefit Calculators:    We offer information and/or links on the below-listed topics.   NWLS community education materials are incorporated into Pennsylvania's State Client Portal at  PALawHelp.org.  This  site  provides a wealth of information and guidance in a wide range of civil law areas. 

    Click here to view these materials

    • Family Law Matters, Custody, Support, etc.
    • Health Care Issues, Medicaid, Medicare, 
    • Landlord/Tenant Law & Housing
    • Mobile Home Park Rights & Eviction
    • Bankruptcy, Collection & Consumer Matters
    • Public Benefit Programs, Cash Assistance, Food Stamps, etc.
    • Social Security Benefits, SSI Eligibility, Overpayment Issues
    • Emancipation of Minors
    • Immigration Information
    • Migrant Worker Rights
    • Rights of Senior Citizens
    • Veteran's Rights
    • Employment Issues, Unemployment Compensation
    • Education, Expulsions & Suspensions, Student Rights


  • Resource Rooms.  NWLS provides computer and internet access for clients in all of our office waiting areas.   We provide direct links to resources via the web such as:
    • Legal Information on various law topics
    • Self-Help and pro se materials
    • Eligibility details on benefit programs 
    • Downloadable forms
    • Apply for many benefits on-line
    • Access pre-screening benefit calculators
    • Late-breaking Legal News


  • Widely distributed newsletter.  We  publish a quarterly newsletter, Access to Justice, which is widely distributed throughout our 10 county service area, covering issues that are currently facing the low-income communityAccess to Justice Newsletter can be viewed online,  or you can sign up to receive our newsletter announcements via email distribution.

What other forms of information does NWLS offer? 

  Pamphlets and Handouts.    NWLS publishes a variety of pamphlets and handouts which are available in each of our six offices.   As well, we post self-help materials to the Internet.  

Public Speaking.   NWLS provides public speakers and conducts numerous presentations throughout the community.  Feel free to view our Community Calendar to locate an event near you.

Produce Video Programs:   NWLS produces the show, "Access To Justice" which offers a information on a variety of substantive law topics.   "Access to Justice" airs regularly on Community Access Television in the City of  Erie,  Channel 2,  as well as other locations through Pennsylvania.   >>See more details.