For people seeking veterans’ benefits, fighting unlawful evictions, maintaining custody of their children, or addressing other challenges involving personal safety, security, and well-being, access to legal resources is crucial. However, unlike criminal cases, where individuals have a constitutional right to an attorney, there is no guarantee of representation for civil legal issues. Navigating the legal system without counsel can be complex and confusing, and many people cannot afford a lawyer.
Because of their unique role in our communities, public libraries are well positioned to recognize needs and provide information and services that connect people to civil legal resources and prepare them for civil legal proceedings. With the addition of two new services, the Natrona County Library is now able to serve as someone’s first stop when navigating civil legal issues. While our staff cannot offer legal advice or assistance, they can connect those in need to someone who can.
Library cardholders can now access Gale LegalForms, a robust online collection of customizable legal forms, for free through the Wyoming State Library, who purchased the resource with federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. With access to authentic and Wyoming-specific “attorney forms,” residents can better understand common legal procedures and the involved documents. LegalForms offers an easy-to-use, step-by-step approach to addressing basic legal matters, such as developing a will, conducting real estate transactions including rental or lease agreements, and more.
Clinics go a step beyond providing access to legal forms—they’re staffed by attorneys who can often answer questions and help file needed paperwork, even if they don’t provide full legal representation. Natrona County residents can now get free legal information from a Volunteer Reference Attorney the first Thursday of every month in the Library’s Barbara Bush meeting room. A volunteer attorney is available from 2 – 4 PM for brief one-on-one visits with community members to provide instruction in filling out legal forms and navigating the court system… no appointment necessary.