How to Get Help

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More Justice. Less Poverty. Pine Tree Legal.

How can I get legal help?

Pine Tree Legal is a free legal resource for low-income people in Maine.  

We provide legal help in many ways: we offer trainings and clinics, self-help materials, advice and in some cases, full legal representation. Visit this website anytime to access fillable court forms, self-help tools and materials. Our online Find Legal Help tool will lead you to helpful information and resources for your situation. Get our telephone and walk-in hours here. Our phone hours can be busy, but we speak with as many people as possible given our resources.

Do you speak a language other than English?

If you come to our office, ask for a translator right away. We will provide one free of charge.

You can also call us at 207-774-8211. Press “2.” Then press:

1 for Spanish
2 for Somali
3 for Arabic
4 for French
5 for Vietnamese
6 for Cambodian
7 for Russian

Please leave a message letting us know where you are in the state, what kind of issue you have, and how we can reach you. A staff member will call you back within 5-7 business days.

Who qualifies for Pine Tree’s services?

By federal rules most Pine Tree services are limited to people with household incomes at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines (and below 125% after deductions, such as housing costs). Some of our programs allow higher incomes. View our income guidelines here. If you don’t qualify for our help, we will tell you right away.

Will Pine Tree take my case?

Each year, we are contacted by over 50,000 people! Unfortunately, we have only enough staff to offer one-on-one help to less than 1 out of every 5 people who contact us.

These are the types of cases we help with:

  • Problems with welfare benefits (TANF, Food Supplements, General Assistance, etc.)
  • Tax Problems with the IRS
  • Domestic Violence
  • Foreclosure/predatory lending
  • Evictions, landlord/tenant problems, and unsafe housing
  • Medicaid services and coverage, and access to health care
  • Poverty Tax Abatements for low-income homeowners
  • Special Education
  • Consumer Problems
  • Problems with DHHS
  • Job Training, ASPIRE/PaS
  • Other serious civil legal problems

In most cases, Pine Tree does not accept family law cases. If you need help with a divorce or parental rights and responsibilities case, contact the Maine Volunteer Lawyers Project.

Pine Tree does not take criminal cases or traffic violations. Go here to find out how to get legal help.

We continually assess the most pressing legal problems facing low-income Mainers. Our Pine Tree Board of Directors regularly reviews this list. The cases currently receiving our top priority:

  1. preserve housing and address related housing needs
  2. maintain, enhance and protect income and economic stability
  3. improve outcomes for children, and
  4. protect personal safety, stability and well-being

Download Pine Tree's priorities.

What type of help will you give me?

The type of service we provide depends largely on the type of legal problem.

  • Anyone can visit our website to get fillable court forms and other self-help tools on a large range of legal issues that are common to people with low incomes, or to use our Find Legal Help tool.
  • Most clients who reach us by phone get immediate advice on their problem, including things they could do in order to resolve the problem on their own.
  • Some receive written materials, or referrals to specific information on ptla.org.
  • Others are referred to an agency or service which can more appropriately resolve their immediate crisis or long-term problems. 
  • About 20% of people who contact us will be referred to a lawyer or legal advocate for “extended” help.  Typically, the legal advocate will try to negotiate a favorable solution. The majority of legal problems brought to our attention are resolved within 30 days of the initial request for help. Of the cases that reach a formal court or agency hearing, our clients win nine out of ten times.

What if I think that PTLA has denied me help illegally or violated my rights in some other way?

We have a grievance procedure. Here are the steps for you to follow.

Step 1: If you have a complaint about Pine Tree, ask to speak with the Directing Attorney of your local PTLA office.

Step 2: If you are still not satisfied, write to:

Executive Director
Pine Tree Legal Assistance
P.O. Box 547
Portland, Maine 04112

Give the details as you see them. In an emergency, call the Executive Director at 207-774-4753.

Step 3: If you still cannot work things out, ask for a review by the Board of Directors. The Executive Director must tell the President of the Board of your request. If you were denied services unfairly, the President can decide the question. Or he can send it to the Grievance Committee, if you prefer. If you are complaining about something else, the Grievance Committee will review your case.

Step 4: The Committee will ask you to write or tell about your complaint. You can ask another person to help you, if you like. If you ask, Pine Tree will type up a short statement in your own words.

Record Keeping Policy

Pine Tree keeps a file on each complaint. If you make a written statement, we will keep it. It will go in the file with the decision on your complaint. 

Go here to download a printer-friendly copy of this policy.  Or ask your PTLA contact to give or mail you this form after filling in the name of the local office’s Directing Attorney.

 

September 2015, partially updated July 2016
PTLA #998