Zach Dorow

Zach Dorow poses Friday for a photo at the Self-Help Center at the Law and Justice Center.

A few years ago Zach Dorow gave up his police badge. He was in search of something different.

Dorow had served as a police officer for about five years in Bozeman and in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and needed a change. He took a job at the Bozeman Co-op while looking for other work, but said his need to help others wasn’t being fulfilled.

So he was excited when a job as the coordinator for the Self-Help Center at the Law and Justice Center opened.

“This is a really great way to help people who can’t afford attorneys — everybody should have access to the legal system,” Dorow said.

Dorow, who’s now been at the job for three years, helps people involved in civil and legal issues like divorces, parenting plans and landlord-tenant conflicts. The center hears people out and presents them with options to resolve problems.

“A lot of times these are people who can’t afford an attorney, so giving them a chance to do it themselves is empowering,” Dorow said.

People involved in criminal cases are entitled to an attorney, but that isn’t the same for civil cases. With the help center resources, Dorow said, representing yourself in court is within reach.

“I’ve seen a lot of people do really well representing themselves in court,” he said. “ … Sometimes the litigant themselves are the most passionate person, so they really do the footwork and put together good cases.”

Asked if he sees more of plaintiffs or defendants, Dorow said he helps both sides — sometimes in the same case. He said he never takes a side and, since he’s not an attorney, the job prohibits him from giving any legal advice or telling people what to do.

“I’ll never tell somebody what they should do — it’s here’s what you could do,” Dorow said.

Freddy Monares can be reached at fmonares@dailychronicle.com or at 406-582-2630.

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