Need a lawyer and don't know where to start? The Utah State Bar has a new service that just might help.

The bar recently launched an online search program that can help people find attorneys that fit unique needs, such as someone who speaks a language other than English or someone who is geographically close to the individual.

The service is found on the Utah State Bar Web site, titled findautahlawyer.org, or can be accessed through the overall Web address for the organization, which is utahbar.org.

The site is intended to be simple and user-friendly, and it employs four search methods: a question and answer format; a county search map; an advanced search form; and searches by ZIP code.

"The directory provides individuals in need of legal assistance a simple-to-use online listing of each participating lawyer's name, address, admission date, law school and telephone number within specific geographic areas and practice types as identified by search criteria," said Nate Alder, president of the Utah State Bar.

To date, there are 637 Utah lawyers taking part in the program and 21 languages are covered, including Tamil, Punjabi, Arabic, American Sign Language and Tagalog.

The advanced search provides information about how many years a particular attorney has been in practice, the location where that person practices and languages spoken.

Alder is especially pleased the site includes a page for "Frequently Asked Questions About Attorneys & Legal Services." It includes information about what a lawyer's duties are, things to keep in mind before hiring someone, how to anticipate and keep costs down, and what to expect from a lawyer.

Alder said in recent years, the bar has tried to find ways to help working people learn more about hiring a lawyer, which for some people might be a once in a lifetime occurrence.

"It's not like going to the doctor," Alder said. "We fully understand there are basic questions that people have, and it's not a routine process or an easy process."

Alder said most of the complaints the bar hears about are from working people who have run into difficulty accessing information, aren't sure about the process and who may have had trouble affording a lawyer.

Often, low-income people qualify for legal assistance, and big businesses frequently have directories and information networks regarding legal services, but the average person who has never hired an attorney might be at a loss if the need for legal help arises.

"We're trying to bridge that gap," Alder said. "Access to justice is an important issue for us as a legal profession, and we're hopeful this online tool will help people who need legal services find lawyers."


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