How do I get legal representation if I can't afford a lawyer?
You need to fill in an application form to get a grant of legal assistance.
The form has questions about your financial situation and your case.
You will also need to give us:
- proof of your income, such as your pay sheet or a copy of your Centrelink card
- bank or credit union account statements for the last three months.
You can download this form here.
You can also get the form from any Legal Aid ACT office, community legal centre and many private lawyers.
Who can help me fill out the application form?
Legal Aid ACT staff and some private lawyers who do legal aid work can help you fill out an application form for free.
If you want help to fill out an application form Contact us
How do we work out who gets a grant?
Grants are generally for criminal or family matters, but can be for some civil cases, such as social security,
mental health, victims of crime compensation, debt negotiation, some personal injury cases, and discrimination matters.
We have clear rules about who can get a grant. We look at:
- what you want legal assistance for
- if you are likely to win your case
- if helping you can benefit other people as well
- your financial situation and apply a means test.
The means test looks at:
- what money you get from work, welfare benefits or other sources
- if you own a car, home or anything else of value
- your weekly living expenses.
The test also looks at if you support anyone else, or whether they support you.
These people are called financially associated persons. Their income and assets
are also included when we work out if you get a grant.
How long does it take to get a grant?
Most applications for a grant of legal assistance are processed within seven working days.
To help us process your application quickly, make sure you include all the relevant information before sending it in.
Can I appeal a decision?
Yes. If we reject your application for a grant of legal assistance you can appeal the decision. You can also appeal:
- the grant conditions
- a decision to stop or change the grant
- the amount of the legal assistance.
For more information, see Funding Cases.
If I get a grant, is it free?
Not always. The amount you may have to pay depends on your financial situation and is worked out from your financial details.
You may be asked to pay a contribution (see Funding Cases for more information.)
Is there a limit to the amount I can get?
Yes, there are limits on the amount of legal assistance you can be given.
If you get a grant of legal assistance we will let you know what this limit is.
You can also ask your lawyer.
It is important that you understand these limits. If your grant runs out and the case is not finished,
you may have to finish your case without our assistance. You can ask us how much grant money you have left at any stage.
What are the conditions of grant?
The general conditions of a grant of legal assistance are:
- If you are required to pay an initial contribution, this must be paid to your lawyer at your first appointment.
- We may reassess the amount of your contribution and increase it.
If your lawyer receives any money on your behalf, they must keep sufficient aside to pay us any contribution that you owe.
Contributions are payable on demand. If you are having difficulty paying your contribution, you may ask us if you can pay it
If you or anyone on whom you depend for financial support owns any land (e.g. a house or unit) we may make it a condition of the
grant of legal assistance that we take a charge over that land to secure payment of your contribution.
You must notify us immediately if there is any change in your financial sitution, or if you change address.
If you do not accept your lawyer's advice, your grant of legal assistance may be stopped.
You must get our approval before you change your lawyer. IF you want to change your laywer we may require you to pay any additional costs
that result from the change.
The documents we hold concerning your grant of legal assistance will be destroyed seven years after the grant
is completed, unless you ask us to make other arrangements.
Your rights of review
If you are not satisfied with a decision we make, you may request a reconsideration. The request may be made in writing
within 28 days of the receiving notice of the decision. If you are not satisfied with the result of the reconsideration,
you may request an independent review of the decision. The request for review must be made in writing within 28 days of
notification of the result of the reconsideration.
Your lawyer's obligations
Your lawyer has been authorised by us to do the work described in the grant of assistance up to the commitment limit
set in the grant. If more work needs to be done your lawyer must ask us to extend the grant of assistance.
Your laywer must not ask you to pay anything towards the cost of the work covered by the grant of assistance, other than
Your lawyer must give us reports on the progress of your case, and details of any offsers to settle the case.
As your case progresses, your lawyer must provide a report on the outcomes reached, and an account setting out the
work they have done and the cost of that work.
- Your lawyer must make their file available to us if we ask to see it.
There may also be special conditions that are explained in the letter you get from Legal Aid ACT if you get a grant.
How does my lawyer get paid?
We pay your lawyer directly. It is an offence for your lawyer to ask you to pay any costs for legal aid work.
If you get a bill from your lawyer contact us immediately.