AM I ELIGIBLE FOR LEGAL AID?
If you have a legal problem that you need assistance with, you may be able to get help from Legal Aid NSW. It is the organisation that delivers criminal, family and civil law services to disadvantaged people across the state.
How legal aid can help
Unfortunately, Legal Aid NSW does not have the resources to help everyone who presents with a legal problem. It can only assist if a case falls within certain policies and guidelines.
If you have a criminal matter or a family law matter, Legal Aid NSW can fund a private or inhouse lawyer to represent you under a grant of legal aid for your matter. Legal Aid NSW can also assist on civil law matters and traffic in some instances.
A legal aid lawyer can speak for you in court, help you prepare legal documents related to your case, help reach an agreement for you with the other side, and give you legal advice.
Qualifying for legal aid
Legal Aid NSW assists thousands of people every year with legal issues and may use several tests to determine whether you are eligible for assistance from the organisation.
To do this, it usually applies a means test that assesses your financial situation as a way to determine whether you meet the relevant assistance thresholds. It may also use a merit test that looks at your matter’s prospect of success.
Other tests that can be applied are the jurisdiction test that assesses whether your matter falls in a jurisdiction and area of law covered by legal aid, or the availability of funds test based on the amount of funding legal aid has available to give out at the time you apply.
Applying for legal aid
When it comes applying for legal aid, you must complete a legal aid application which will then be used by the organisation to assess your eligibility to receive a grant of aid.
Legal Aid NSW advises prospective applicants to speak to a lawyer before completing the application in order to have the best chance of success. If you go down this path, a lawyer can help you work out whether you’re eligible, and submit the application for you.
Alternately, you can fill out and lodge the application form yourself.
In addition to the application form, you will also need to submit documents setting out your financial situation, proof of income, as well as documents related to your legal matter.
Receiving a grant of legal aid
If you are successful and receive a grant of legal aid it’s likely your matter will be handled by a private lawyer who has received funding from Legal Aid NSW to represent you.
Your grant is not unlimited, and it’s worth remembering that if your legal aid money runs out while your case is ongoing, you may have to complete it without government assistance.
Even if you do receive a grant of legal aid, you will still usually have to pay some legal costs at the end of you case.