What is Legal Aid?

What is Legal Aid?

By Kayla Curtis

· Read time: 3 minutes

Legal aid is a government funded initiative to help assist individuals who are on a Centrelink benefit or who are considered low income earners, to obtain legal representation. 

Legal aid provides the ability for individuals to access legal representation in circumstances where this may not have been possible due to income restrictions. There are two main ways you can access legal aid: 

  1. Directly through legal aid by lodging an application form at your local legal aid office, or 
  2. Through a private lawyer whose firm is an approved panel firm.

There are different panels within Legal Aid: 

  1. Family Law panel, 
  2. Criminal panel, 
  3. Barrister panel, 
  4. Civil Law panel. 

How do I apply for Legal Aid?

As stated above, lodging an application for legal aid is the first step. The two main ways are: 

  1. Directly through legal aid by lodging an application form with the organisation. A legal aid lawyer will then take on your case and contact you directly. 
  2. Through a private lawyer whose firm is an approved panel firm. The approved lawyer can lodge an application form for you, nominating their firm as your chosen solicitor, or you can lodge an application nominating them yourself. 

Once your application form is complete, you will be asked to provide proof of the details surrounding your income, assets and liabilities. Legal aid will then use this information to determine your eligibility and will provide you or your chosen lawyer with an outcome via letter (usually within 30 days).

Your income and assets will largely determine the likely outcome of your application and the contribution you will have to pay towards your legal bills. For more information about the type of income assessed, exempted assets and the contribution you may have to pay, visit the legal aid website.

If you are approved you will receive a letter form Legal Aid outlining your approval and any contributions you will need to pay. The next step will be for your lawyer to contact you to arrange the next steps in moving forward with your matter. 

If you are declined, Legal Aid will provide a reason in writing and will outline the steps required to lodge an appeal of the decision. 

Can I pick my Lawyer?

In certain circumstances yes  so long as your chosen lawyer is part of an approved panel firm. Panel firm members are selected through an application process and allocated to their chosen panel. The decision to take on your matter by your chosen lawyer is at the lawyers discretion.  

Legal aid currently offers assistance in family, criminal and civil law matters only. 

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