What We Do

FAQs - General

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Is legal aid free?

Information and initial legal advice provided by telephone or in an interview are free of charge. Duty lawyer services are also free.

If you require ongoing legal representation you will need to apply for a grant of legal assistance. Legal assistance is only free if your financial circumstances do not allow you to pay any contribution towards your costs. Most people are asked to pay an initial contribution, and the amount of your contribution may be reviewed during or on completion of your case.

If you feel you may have difficulty in paying a contribution you should talk to your lawyer, or contact Legal Aid ACT.

Is personal information kept confidential?

We keep your personal information confidential, and we keep the legal advice you get from us confidential. We may only disclose your personal information with your consent, or if we are required to do so by law.

To find out more about our information handling and privacy policies, see FOI & privacy

I've been told you cannot represent me because there is a 'conflict of interest'. What does this mean?

A 'conflict of interest' is an ethical dilemma. For example, it would be a conflict of interest, and unethical, for a law firm to represent both sides in a case. Law firms owe a duty of loyalty to their clients to act in each client's best interests. This duty cannot be carried out if a law firm represents more than one party in a dispute. It would mean that the lawyers representing each of the parties could access information about the other party, and use that information against the other party. This would be a breach of the duty of loyalty, and unjust.

When someone makes an appointment to see us we check to see if they, or the other party in a dispute, have seen us previously. Where both parties to a dispute apply for a grant of legal assistance and both are eligible, a Legal Aid ACT lawyer may represent one party, and the other party will be referred to a private lawyer whose fees are be paid by Legal Aid ACT. In this way rights and interests of both parties are protected.

If the other party is assisted by Legal Aid ACT does this mean I can't get legal aid?

No, anyone can get legal aid provided they are eligible. Legal Aid ACT has two separate functions under the Legal Aid Act 1977. One is to grant legal assistance, and the other is to represent people receiving legal assistance. The two functions are carried out by separate divisions - Client Services grants assistance and the Legal Practice represents people. The Legal Practice can only represent one party in a dispute, but Client Services can grant assistance to any party in a dispute provided they are eligible. If our Legal Practice cannot act for you because of a conflict of interest we can still:

What if I need an interpreter?

If you need an interpreter, let us know when you contact us. When we give you legal information or legal advice, we can arrange an interpreter for free.

If you are going to court and need an interpreter, ask your legal aid lawyer to arrange one. In many cases this will also be free.

The only time that you may need to pay for interpreting fees is if you get a grant of legal assistance and we require you to pay a contribution (see Funding Cases.)

What if I have a hearing or speech problem?

If you have a hearing or speech problem you can access our services via the National Relay Service.

What can I expect from Legal Aid ACT?

You can expect our staff to observe the highest standards of ethical and professional behaviour. Our lawyers, and private lawyers paid by us, are required to comply with their professional and legal obligations as legal practitioners.

We provide a respectful, courteous service and listen to your concerns. We will give you with information about the services we offer. We provide a safe environment for you. We respect your privacy and you can have access to your personal information.

We will be impartial and open with you in assessing your enquiry or case, and provide a realistic assessment of it. We will give you accurate information within a reasonable time. You will be advised on the progress of your case or enquiry.

When your legal matter is completed, we will inform you in writing about anything you need to do and what is likely to happen.

I've been referred to a private lawyer - does this mean I can't apply for legal aid?

If you are referred to a private lawyer it may be because Legal Aid ACT has a conflict of interest, or because we do not have the capacity to take on more cases at that time. In either situation, if you are eligible for a grant of assistance, we will provide a lawyer to represent you and pay that lawyer's costs.

Who is eligible for legal aid?

Anyone may apply for a grant of legal assistance, but to be eligible you must satisfy three tests. First you must satisfy an income and assets test. This means that your income and assets must be below prescribed limits. Second, your case must satisfy a merit or reasonableness test. This test involves an assessment of whether it is reasonable in the circumstances to grant assistance, including whether your case is likely to succeed. Finally, your case must come within the guidelines on the types of cases that Legal Aid ACT can assist. For more information on the eligibility tests see Funding Cases.

I live in NSW and there is no Legal Aid office where I live - where do I apply?

If you live in NSW and you want help with a NSW matter please contact Legal Aid NSW.

If it is a matter in an ACT court or tribunal please contact us.