Reduced Fee Legal Services (Making Legal Help More Affordable)


By: Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA)

Learn about reduced-fee legal service programs run by Montana Legal Services and the State Bar of Montana.
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Reduced Fee Legal Services

What are reduced fee legal services?

Reduced fee legal services are when lawyers agree to accept lower fees than they usually charge clients. Lawyers may reduce their fees for clients who meet certain income guidelines. Reduced fees can make legal help more affordable for people who may not qualify for free legal aid but still have trouble paying for a lawyer. If you qualify, you get the same high-quality legal help from a licensed lawyer that you would get if you paid at the regular rate. Reduced fee legal services are voluntary. Lawyers are not required to reduce their fees for low-income clients. 

What is RIPL?

What is RIPL?

The Rural Incubator Program for Lawyers (RIPL) is a program of Montana Legal Services Association that provides Montanans with reduced fee legal representation.

How much does RIPL cost?

RIPL charges between $60 and $120 an hour, depending on your income and other factors. In general, RIPL lawyers charge:

  • $60/hour flat rate for a Legal Advice Appointment and/or Limited Scope Representation;
  • $60-$120/hour for Full Representation. 

What kind of legal matters can I get help with?  

Lawyers in the RIPL program can help with common legal matters, including:

  • Divorce and Parenting Plans
  • Landlord/Tenant disputes
  • Wills and Probate
  • Real estate and land use issues
  • Social Security Disability Insurance
  • Criminal charges
  • And, more. 

How does it work?

You must apply to Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA) to find out if you qualify. MLSA will ask you questions about your household income, assets, citizenship status, and information about your legal problem to determine if you are eligible. We keep all your information confidential. 

If MLSA determines that you are eligible, we will try to refer you directly to a RIPL Lawyer in your local area who practices the kind of law that you need help with. 

How do I qualify?

Your household must be at or below 300% of the Federal Poverty Line to qualify. However, calculating income is complicated and many things can factor into your income. The best thing to do is contact MLSA to determine eligibility.

MLSA and RIPL Lawyers must also follow certain professional rules of conduct when accepting clients. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee of services even for those that meet the financial requirements. 

What services are offered through RIPL?

There are three kinds of services that may be a good fit for your case:

  • Legal Advice Appointment
  • Limited Scope Services (LSR)
  • Full Representation.

A Legal Advice Appointment is 60 minutes long and gives you an opportunity to discuss your legal case and get advice from a lawyer on options that might be right for you. 


Limited Scope Representation (LSR) are when a lawyer helps you with a specific part of your legal case but doesn’t represent you in court. You would have to represent yourself at court hearings and respond to paperwork filed in your legal case. Limited Scope Services can include:

  • Negotiating on your behalf with the other party
  • Writing or reviewing legal documents
  • Other services that can be completed within a set time frame. 

Hiring a lawyer for limited scope also has risks including and up to losing your case and losing money. You should discuss these risks with a lawyer before you hire them for limited scope services.


Full Representation is when a lawyer represents you through the full court process. This includes responding to court paperwork that the other party may file in the lawsuit and attending all court hearings. Some legal matters may be a good fit for Advice and/or Limited Scope Representation. Depending on how complex a legal case is, Full Representation may be a better option. 

What are my rights when hiring a lawyer?

When working with a RIPL lawyer, it can be helpful to understand that they are not required to represent you or accept a reduced fee. Also, they are providing the same service they provide to other clients but at a lower rate for you. It’s a good idea to thank the lawyer for working with you, and be mindful of their time when discussing your case. Still you always have certain rights when hiring a lawyer. 

When you hire a lawyer, you have these rights:

  • Lawyers are required to give you an agreement in writing. The agreement should say what the lawyer will do for you and how much it will cost you. 
  • You have the right to know exactly what you are paying for.
  • You have the right to discuss and bargain the proposed fee.  

Take Action

Apply for Reduced-Fee Legal Services

You apply for reduced fee legal services through RIPL  by applying to MLSA:

Legal Forms

Find more resources using our interactive Legal Guide.
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