How Can We Help?

Legal Services of Northern Michigan (LSNM) is a nonprofit law firm providing free, high quality, legal advice and representation for eligible clients in a broad range of areas including consumer cases, family matters, housing problems, government benefits, and much more.

"Bridging the Justice Gap in Northern Michigan for over 50 years"

Who We Are

Legal Services of Northern Michigan

Established in 1966, Legal Services of Northern Michigan fills gaps in the civil justice system that prevent low income and marginalized communities from accessing legal representation. We have a staff of 15 experienced and dedicated lawyers, plus support staff, located at 6 offices throughout 36 counties in Northern Lower Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.

Our clients include people:

  • facing evictions and foreclosures
  • seeking safety from domestic violence, sexual assault, and elder abuse
  • trying to access benefits that deliver basic income, healthcare, and food security
  • many others facing civil legal problems that threaten basic needs or personal safety

LSNM is guided by a Board of Directors consisting of attorneys, former clients, and representatives of partner agencies. Quarterly meetings are held usually in March, June, September, and December. Contact any office for information about the next board meeting.

LSNM is managed by Kenneth Penokie, Executive Director, with the assistance of two Deputy Directors, Mary Kavanaugh-Gahn and Kirsten L. Keilitz.

LSNM Senior Client
"What does access to justice mean? For our clients, it means that they can count on us to help them tell their story so the courts hear it."

Our Priorities

Our clients pay no attorney fees. LSNM exists because of funding from grants from federal, state, and local governments and agencies and donations from private foundations and individuals. Due to limited resources, LSNM must make hard decisions about which cases to accept based on our priorities. Our funders, our board of directors, and our client community help us set priorities for the types of cases we should handle.

LSNM’s priorities reflect our focus on supporting individuals and families impacted by poverty, housing discrimination, domestic violence, sexual assault, elder abuse, and other legal issues experienced by our most vulnerable neighbors.

We do not handle criminal matters, such as drunk driving, larceny, shoplifting, or in driver's license restoration. We handle only civil matters. If you need help with a criminal matter and are low income, contact the court and request a court-appointed attorney.

LSNM Service Area Map

Use the map above to determine which office can assist you based on the county where your legal matter is pending or where you live. For Gogebic, Ontonagon, Oscoda, Ogemaw, or Iosco counties, please use the Out-County Assistance contact info listed after the offices.

Services & Eligibility

The program offers a broad range of civil legal services to low income individuals and families. Our goal is to respond to the growing legal needs and concerns of low income people and senior citizens throughout Northern Lower Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.

In some situations, a client might only require information or advice. In other cases, a legal problem may require extensive research and consultation or may need formal representation in court. Our staff can offer advice, answer questions, prepare documents, negotiate settlements, and provide court representation.

In addition, LSNM staff can meet with client groups to give talks and discuss legal matters of interest to clients. We can also work with and provide legal advice to community organizations.

LSNM cannot accept criminal cases or civil cases that generate fees. The problems listed below are intended to give you a general outline of the kinds of cases we may be able to help with. Because LSNM receives funding from the federal Legal Services Corporation, we are subject to certain federally-imposed advocacy restrictions, see LSC Laws, Regulations & Guidance. Because of local funding opportunities, some of our offices have more resources to handle certain types of cases. Unfortunately, due to limited resources we are not able to assist everyone that applies.

If you have a critical civil legal need, you should contact a local office to see what services are available.


LSNM provides advice and representation in a variety of family law matters with a focus on helping persons in immediate danger of harm due to domestic violence or sexual assault or cases meant to stabilize living environments for children. Assistance includes:

  • securing and maintaining Personal Protection Orders
  • divorce and custody cases for domestic violence and sexual assault survivors
  • custody actions when children are at risk
  • cases preventing the transfer of custody from an established custodial environment


LSNM is a HUD-approved housing counseling agency and provides education and representation for landlord-tenant and homeowner problems such as:

  • eviction defense
  • fighting unfair housing practices
  • securing and maintaining federal housing subsidies
  • challenging mortgage foreclosures and predatory lending and servicing practices
  • defending land contract forfeitures and option contracts
  • mobile home park litigation
  • tax forfeiture defense
  • advising and assisting those considering a home purchase


We provide advice and representation for:

  • debt collection harassment and lawsuits
  • fighting unfair housing practices
  • repossession
  • financial exploitation
  • credit counseling
  • garnishment
  • student loan collection
  • unfair sales practices
  • contract and warranty issues

Elder Law

LSNM provides advice and representation to seniors age 60 and older with a focus on:

  • public benefits
  • healthcare
  • housing
  • consumer
  • simple wills, powers of attorney, and advance directives

Priority is given to vulnerable, low income older adults.


We provide advice and representation with obtaining or keeping benefits such as:

  • cash assistance programs
  • emergency relief programs
  • disability programs
  • food programs


Education services include advice and representation with regard to suspension, expulsion, and rights to IEPs and Special Education services.

Our Funders

Some services for seniors funded by Area Agencies on Aging Regions 9, 10 & 11