Official State of Iowa Website

Finding a Lawyer or Attorney

Below is a list of resources to help locate an attorney in Iowa. You can also ask friends, family and trusted professionals for referrals.

Resources for finding free, low-cost, or private legal representation or advice, compiled by the librarians at the Drake University Law Library and the State Law Library of Iowa.

Iowa Legal Aid
Central Iowa Regional Office
1111 9th St., Suite 230 Des Moines, IA 50314-2527
515-243-1193, 1-800-532-1275 or 1-800-272-0008 (Spanish)
- Outside central Iowa, call to see which office serves you.

Drake University Law School Legal Clinic
2400 University Ave. Des Moines, IA 50311
- “Neal and Bea Smith Legal Clinic” under “Clinics and Centers.”

Middleton Center for Children’s Rights
2400 University Ave. Des Moines, IA 50311

Disability Rights IOWA
400 E. Court Ave. Suite 300, Des Moines, IA 50309
515-278-2502 or 1-800-779-2502
TTY: 515-278-0571 or 1-866-483-3342

Legal Hotline for Older Iowans: Iowa Legal Aid
1111 9th St., Suite 230 Des Moines, IA 50314-2527
515-282-8161 or 1-800-992-8161

Youth Law Center
218 Sixth St, suite 300, Des Moines, IA 50309
515-244-1172 or 1-800-728-1172

Iowa Concern Hotline: Iowa State University

Persons Using English as a Second Language/
Se Habla Español
430 Iowa Ave. Iowa City, IA 52240
1-800-272-0008 or 1-319-351-6570

Polk County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project website
625 E. Court, Suite 100, Des Moines, IA 50309

Iowa Find-A-Lawyer
- Free, online directory provided by The Iowa State Bar Association to assist the public in locating a private attorney.

Find Legal Help from the American Bar Association
website from Martindale-Hubbell

Findlaw for the Public

Avvo - Find a Lawyer

How do I find the "best" attorney?

How does an ordinary person find an attorney? There is no reliable print or electronic source for specific attorney referrals. Those well-publicized lists that "rate" attorneys are typically self-published (the attorney pays a fee to be listed and "rated") and the ratings are from subjective sources. The attorneys listed are not judged on objective characteristics by authoritative experts from inside and outside the profession.

The Iowa State Bar Association provides a free, online directory to assist members of the public in locating a private attorney called Iowa Find-A-Lawyer. Iowa Find-A-Lawyer helps to connect potential clients to members of The Iowa State Bar Association who have asked to be listed under particular specialties. This does not mean that the private attorneys listed on Iowa Find-A-Lawyer are the "best" or the most experienced attorneys in certain areas of the law; the members who are included in the online directory indicated that their practices concentrate on select kinds of cases, such as family law, probate, criminal defense, or real estate. Lawyers appearing on the Iowa Find-A-Lawyer online directory have agreed to charge $25 or less for up to a half-hour of initial consultation with no obligation to retain their services. Thirty minutes can be plenty of time to tell your story and ascertain your legal options and your chances of prevailing in court. Alternatively, you might consider hiring an attorney for limited-scope services, meaning that rather than retaining a lawyer to fully represent you and handle all aspects of your case from start to finish, you can pay for specific task-oriented services and limited advice for your self-represented case.

The "best" attorneys are not necessarily those who do the greatest volume of work. For instance, a family lawyer who settled 25 relatively easy uncontested divorce cases last year may or may not be as skilled as an attorney who litigated four very difficult and complicated dissolutions during the same period. An attorney who regularly handles cases on appeal has a different set of skills than an attorney who only litigates at the district court level. Federal or state appellate-level attorneys handle far fewer cases on average than county courthouse litigators.

Generally speaking, these are the guidelines for finding the "best" attorney for any particular case: (1) If you have had a positive previous experience with an attorney (in any area of the law), ask that attorney for a referral to an attorney who would do well with your case. Even if this attorney doesn't personally know of an excellent practitioner, he or she most likely knows someone in a position to make a reliable recommendation. (2) Interview attorneys in your geographical area and ask each how he or she would handle your case. Ask if they've ever litigated a similar case, ask them to tell you about it, and ask to read the judge's or jury's decision(s). (3) Search case law at the appellate level to see who litigated cases like yours. It is indeed difficult to find the "best" attorney, but the attorney who's best for one client could feasibly be the worst for another. Decide what you want to get out of your case, how you want it to be conducted, and interview potential attorneys accordingly. If you want to hire a relentless and merciless "bull dog," then a gentle, smiling, advocate of mediation who wants to compromise and settle out of court is not for you, and vice versa.

America's judicial system is complicated, nuanced and built for professionals--not laypersons--to navigate; effectively presenting a winning case is as much art form as skilled craft. Attorneys spend three years and more than $100,000 earning doctorate degrees in competitive law school programs, and then spend more years honing their skills, building experience and deepening their knowledge under the tutelage of mentors. Navigating our rule-filled courts is a chess game; just because you're good at checkers doesn't mean you can easily jump into a match, especially if your opponent is represented by a seasoned master.

Paying for an Attorney

Retaining an attorney can be expensive and like any other unplanned financial outlay, you may have to get creative. Some people borrow money from family, friends, employers, banks or credit unions to fund their lawsuits. Others sell a valuable asset or take a second (or third) job to pay their legal fees. If you can take out a zero-interest credit card, your case-related expenses can be charged. Attorneys who represent clients suing for monetary damages will usually take a percentage of winning awards or settlements rather than charging up-front retainers and hourly rates--if you lose this type of case, you owe only overhead costs. Many attorneys are willing to work with clients to set up payment plans. Always ask your attorney if you can petition the judge to assign attorney fees and court costs to the opposing party.

The vast majority of lawsuits--upwards of 95% by most estimates--are settled out of court rather than by trial, so bringing a suit may actually end up costing much less than you anticipated, especially if your attorney can settle it without stepping foot into a courtroom. Sometimes a strongly-worded letter on law firm letterhead gets the job done. It's always a good idea to consult with an attorney, however briefly, before attempting to find your way in the maze that is our judicial system.

Resolving Disputes Without Going to Court

Many disputes can be solved without involving the courts; contact the organizations below to discuss your specific situation. Attorneys may also be able to provide additional options for resolving disputes without going to court. Resource compiled by the librarians at the Drake University Law Library and the State Law Library of Iowa.

Iowa Mediation Services
Central Iowa (515) 331-8081
SE Iowa (319) 398-4042
NE Iowa (641) 423-4322
SW Iowa (641) 782-7329
NW Iowa (712) 262-7007

Consumer Protection Division:
Iowa Attorney General’s Office
- for issues involving consumer fraud, sales practices and advertisements.

Consumer Affairs:
Iowa Division of Insurance
- for issues involving health, life
or auto insurance companies or policies
515-281-5705 or 1-877-955-1212

Iowa Civil Rights Commission
- for issues involving civil rights.
515-281-4121 or 1-800-457-4416

Iowa Department of Human ServicesChild Support Customer Services Unit
- for issues involving the collection
of child support payments.

515-242-5530 or 1-888-229-9223

Iowa Utilities Board
Customer Service Section
- for complaints about public utility service.
515-281-3839 or 1-877-565-4450

Iowa Department of Workforce Development
- for issues involving wage payment,
unemployment claims and workers’ compensation.
Wages: 515-725-5619, unemployment: 1-888-848-7442,
and workers' compensation: 1-800-645-4583.

Long Term Care Ombudsman
- for issues related to long-term care, including nursing
facilities, assisted living programs, and elder group homes

Citizens’ Aide/Ombudsman
- for issues involving state or local government.
515-281-3592 or 1-888-426-6283

The Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directory
- Dispute Resolution directory.

Iowa Association for Mediators
- for mediator assisted resolutions.