What We Do

Funding Cases

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If you need ongoing help from a lawyer we may be able to help you fund your case. We do this by giving grants of legal assistance to people who can't afford a lawyer.

A grant of legal assistance is money used to pay a Legal Aid ACT or private lawyer to help you with your legal problem. A lawyer can:

Applications for legal assistance are subject to means, legal merit and matter tests governed by the Legal Aid Act 1977 and by guidelines made under the Act. See the guidelines for more information.

You can download an application form for Legal assistance here.

A successful application will result in a grant of legal assistance which will be subject to conditions that will usually include payment of a financial contribution.

Contributions

Legal assistance is usually provided on condition that the applicant pays an initial contribution towards the cost of providing legal assistance. The amount is set out in the letter granting assistance.

Initial contributions are payable in a lump sum at the first appointment with your lawyer, but if payment in a lump sum will cause hardship you may ask to pay it by instalments. If you have trouble paying a contribution, talk to your lawyer or advise Legal Aid ACT. If you are suffering severe financial hardship, the contribution may be waived altogether.

Your contribution may be increased if the grant of assistance is extended while your matter is progressing.

Your contribution may also be reassessed if your financial position changes during or at the end of your case, or the financial information on which it was originally assessed was wrong or incomplete. Legal Aid ACT can require the amount of a contribution to be paid out of an amount of money recoverable in the case on your behalf.

A reassessed contribution can be up to 100% of the full cost of providing legal assistance.

If you own land Legal Aid ACT may grant assistance on condition that payment of a contribution is secured by a charge on your land.

Responsibility to pay Legal Costs

If you are granted legal assistance for a matter in which a lawyer has already done work for you, it is your responsibility to pay the lawyer's legal costs up to the time assistance starts. Legal Aid ACT will pay your lawyer's legal costs from the time assistance starts to the time assistance ends, subject to cost limits placed on the grant of assistance.

If you recover legal costs in the matter in which you are receiving assistance you are liable to pay those costs to Legal Aid ACT.

If a court or tribunal orders you to pay the costs of another party you will normally have to pay those costs, although Legal Aid ACT may, in limited circumstances, agree to pay part or all of those costs on your behalf.

If your lawyer receives money on your behalf while you are receiving legal assistance, they must keep enough funds in trust to cover the cost of legal assistance.

Lawyer of Choice

When you apply for legal assistance you may ask us to assign your case to a particular lawyer. This could be a Legal Aid ACT lawyer, or a lawyer in private practice who handles legal aid work. Whether we refer your case to your lawyer of choice may depend on the type of case, the availability of that lawyer, and what we believe will be the most efficient use of limited legal aid funds.

Legal Aid ACT lawyers specialize in certain types of cases, and in these cases it will often be a more efficient to appoint one of our lawyers to represent you. In other cases, or where we cannot act due to conflict of interest, we will assign the case to a private lawyer.

If we decide to assign your case to a private lawyer, we will appoint your lawyer of choice, provided that lawyer is willing to handle the case. If you have no preference for a particular lawyer, we will select a private lawyer from our General Panel to handle your case.

Client and Lawyer Relationship

There are several aspects to a client and lawyer relationship.

Lawyers owe their clients a duty of loyalty to act in the utmost good faith in the interests of their clients and to carry out by all proper means their client's instructions.

Another important aspect of the relationship is confidentiality. This means that all the information you give to a lawyer is private and will only be disclosed with your consent or as required by law. For more information see FOI & Privacy

Your lawyer should act on your instructions, unless it is illegal, unethical or unreasonable do so. Your lawyer should also keep you informed of important developments in your case.

It is always in a client's best interest to be truthful and provide their lawyer with all information relevant to their case so the lawyer can provide the correct advice for a particular case.

You should also bear in mind that in addition to duties owed to their clients, lawyers also owe duties to the law, and to the courts. For example, lawyers must not assist a client to break the law, or knowingly mislead a court about the facts of a case.

What you can do to help us

Legal Aid ACT aims to provide service that is professional, efficient and responsive to your needs. However, to work efficiently in your best interests we need you to provide us with accurate information. We ask that you provide correct, up to date information and notify us if:

It is also helpful if you:

For more information about legal representation and grants of assistance, see the FAQs.