How the SBM Modest Means Program Works

Your eligibility for the program is based on your legal matter, income, and assets as well as the availability of participating lawyers in your area.

If you qualify for the program, the modest means attorney will charge a reduced fee for any legal work provided after the initial consultation.

The reduced fee rate is $75 per hour. Unless you are using one of the fixed-fee services, your attorney is billing by the hour.

Modest means clients will pay $25 to the State Bar of Michigan for a referral to a lawyer for a 25-minute consultation. Exceptions may apply.

 Am I eligible?
Apply Here.

​To be eligible for the Modest Means Program, you must have a qualifying legal issue, your household income must fall at or below 250 percent of federal poverty guidelines (see below), and your liquid assets must not exceed $5,000. A liquid asset is cash on hand or an asset that can be readily converted to cash, which generally does not include money in a 401k or other retirement account.

Make this quick calculation to see if you qualify based on your household size and income.

Am I Eligible for Reduced Legal Fees?

The State Bar of Michigan Modest Means Program connects moderate-income people with attorneys who offer reduced cost legal assistance. The Modest Means Program is not a free program. If you use this program, you must pay for any services received. If you cannot pay these fees, contact the legal aid office in your county of residence. The Guide to Legal Help is a new tool developed by that can assist you in determining if you qualify for legal aid or other resources. Use this interactive Guide to find the best available legal information and lawyer referrals for your problem.

Use the "Am I Eligible" calculator to quickly determine whether you may be eligible for reduced legal fees.

What are qualifying legal issues?
This is a pilot program; additional qualifying legal issues are coming soon. We currently offer assistance with:

Family Law — Domestic relations includes but is not limited to legal separation, divorce, child custody matters, child support, paternity, and post-judgment proceedings. Services provided may include preparation of documents, preparation for conciliation hearings, and representation at referee and court hearings. The reduced fee rate is $75 per hour with a maximum $750 retainer fee.

Bankruptcy Law — This is a specific subset of consumer law and provides a fixed fee limited to the preparation and filing of Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases and the provision of services. Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases will be handled for a flat fee of $500. This amount excludes filing fees, costs associated with adversarial proceedings, responses to contested matters, appeals, rule 2004 examination fees, transcript, and interpreter fees. If the attorney and client decide to undertake work outside the scope of the flat fee program, the hourly rate will be $75.

How do I apply?
To apply, complete the Modest Means Application and submit online or, if you'd prefer, download the form, complete, and mail back to us.  To access the application, quickly calculate your eligibility by selecting "Am I Eligible for Reduced Legal Fees." Please provide a confidential email address and telephone number where you can be reached during the day.  The application will ask you to certify that the information you provide is accurate and that you understand that, if you provide false information, you may not participate in the Modest Means Program.

We will contact you after your application has been processed to let you know whether an attorney is available to handle your matter. You are entitled to an initial consultation of up to 25 minutes for a $25 referral fee. Our Lawyer Referral Service staff will collect the fee before providing you with a referral. With your consent, the Modest Means lawyer will contact you within two business days to schedule an appointment for an initial consultation about your legal issue.

If you do not qualify for the program, we can discuss other options, including referring you to a Lawyer Referral Service lawyer.

The lawyer will receive a copy of your application and may ask additional questions to confirm your eligibility for the program. The lawyer has the final say in the financial qualification process.

Here are a few simple tips to make the most of your experience and keep legal costs affordable.

Remember that this is not a free service and that both your time and the attorney's is valuable. Unless you are using one of the fixed-fee services (look at your retainer agreement to be sure), your attorney is billing by the hour.

Remember that when you call or email your attorney, he or she is keeping track and will charge against your retainer for the time to answer your questions.

We know you might have lots of questions, so plan ahead:

  1. Find out if your attorney prefers emails or phone calls.
  2. When emailing, have your questions organized and use short sentences and lists instead of long paragraphs.
  3. If you are able, email your questions and ask the attorney to call you back at a time that's convenient for both of you.
  4. Ask all your questions at once, in the same email. If you must ask a follow-up question, reply to the initial email to make everything easier to find.
  5. If you have a meeting scheduled, come prepared:
  • Have your list of questions ready, including anything else you'd like to talk about.
  • Have all the requested documents and information organized and ready to go.
  • If you have a meeting scheduled, get there on time (or a little early). These matters can be stressful, so try to reduce stress by knowing where to go and giving yourself plenty of time to get there.
  • Follow through. If your attorney asks you for documents or to contact a possible witness, do it!

By following these tips, you'll be able to get more from this experience and access essential legal services in an affordable way.

2021 Annual Poverty Guidelines (250%)
Family/Household Poverty Guideline
1 $31,900
2 43,100
3 54,300
4 65,500
5 76,700
6 87,900
7 99,100
8 110,300
For families/households with over 8 persons, add: 11,200
2021 Monthly Poverty Guidelines (250%)
Family/Household Poverty Guideline
1 $2,658
2 3,592
3 4,525
4 5,458
5 6,392
6 7,325
7 8,258
8 9,192
For families/households with over 8 persons, add: $933