How to access legal aid

If you have been arrested or have an upcoming court case the best advice is to speak to a lawyer. There are a few options out there that you can seek help from including:

Legal Aid

Or if you are under 18:

Legal Aid Children’s Legal Service

Why speak to a Lawyer?

A lawyer can provide you with legal advice and information, as well as represent you in court. Lawyers are bound by confidentiality, this means that can’t repeat what you tell them about yourself or the charge you are facing, so you can speak openly and honestly with them. Lawyers can get in very serious trouble if they break these rules even if you tell them about your involvement in a very serious crime. Lawyers are not there to represent you, not judge you, their role is to give you sound legal advice about the situation you find yourself in, explain what your options are, and to tell you honestly the possible outcomes of your case if you go to court. 

A lawyer can:

  • Give you advice about your matter
  • Explain what might happen in court about your case
  • Talk to the court/tribunal or other parties on your behalf
  • Speak for you in court on most criminal matters.

How to access Legal Aid?

It is best to get Legal Advice before you go to court, but if you haven’t, you can still get limited assistance from Legal Aid on the day. Legal Aid has lawyers called “Duty Lawyers” at all local courts and many other courts and tribunals across NSW every day. A Duty Lawyer can help you if you have a matter at court but don’t have any legal representation. Duty lawyer’s fees are covered by Legal Aid so it won’t cost you anything. Anyone without a lawyer can approach a duty lawyer for help at court. Unfortunately the amount of help a duty lawyer can only give you is limited. What a duty lawyer can do is assist you to get an adjournment (put off your matter to a later date) so that you have a chance to get legal advice or representation. Or they can give you advice on the probable outcome of your case.

Other types of help at court include Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services that can help women and children experiencing Domestic violence and who are seeking an AVO. The Children’s Court Assistance Scheme assists young people who have matters in the Children Court.

If you think you might need to have a lawyer represent you on an ongoing basis you will need to apply for a “legal aid”. Legal Aid recommends that before you apply for legal aid you get legal advice from Law Access in case your legal issue can be solved quickly without you needing to go to court. You can ring Law Access on 1300 888 529 for advice and to find your closet legal aid service.

Applying for Legal Aid

Once you have spoken to Law Access and they have advised you to get legal representation then you will need to fill in an application for “Legal Aid”. You can download the application from Legal Aid website (pdf). This form will ask you about your legal problem and your financial situation. The information that you give helps Legal Aid NSW assess your eligibility for assistance.

Check out the Legal Aid website for information that will assist you to complete your application including:

Frequently asked questions about applying for legal aid

Guide to filling out the legal aid application forms

There are other community based legal services who may be able to assist you depending on the legal issue you are facing. These include:

Community Legal Centres

HALC (HIV/AIDS Legal Centre)

Aboriginal Legal Service