If you have found yourself in a tricky situation where you need legal help but your budget is tight, finding free legal advice is key.
Unfortunately, legal advice and court representation can get expensive very quickly. This means that people who want to raise legal disputes are often discouraged from doing so as they can’t afford the potential legal fees.
This can, in some cases, cost you even more overall, particularly when the legal issue is money-related in the first place. If you can’t afford to get legal help over something like debt, then this could spiral out of control, leaving you even more out of pocket than before.
Why getting free legal advice is difficult
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to access free legal advice due to budget cuts and changes in the way that the Government funds the companies who provide it. This means that many legal firms are hesitant to offer free legal advice.
In fact, since 2012, the number of legal firms in England providing free legal aid has fallen by a massive 20%. No wonder people struggle to get legal help.
Getting help through Legal Aid
Legal Aid is the Government’s method of accessing legal help if you can’t afford to pay for advice or representation. It’s funded through public money and it aims to provide fair and equal access to legal help for those who otherwise would struggle to get it.
As it’s Government funded and a lot of people need it, the service is limited by certain criteria.
You may be eligible for Legal Aid if you have a serious case or a particularly low income. The Government considers several areas when you apply, including:
- Your type of case
- Your income
- The cost associated with your case
- The likelihood that your case will be successful
Be aware though, Legal Aid no longer covers cases such as divorce, employment, welfare benefits, child custody or housing issues. You’ll have to go elsewhere to find help with those particular issues.
Legal Aid will consider the following types of cases:
- Clinical negligence - However, only in certain circumstances such as brain injury
- Community care - Cases involving abuse or neglect in hospitals or care homes
- Asylum cases - People seeking asylum or help with trafficking/abuse
- Crime - Victims of crime will be considered for Legal Aid
- Debt - Serious debt like bankruptcy or repossession
- Discrimination - Help with unlawful discrimination cases and harassment
- Education - For those with children with special educational needs
- Family issues - Including domestic abuse and child welfare.
However, Legal Aid is only open to those who fall under certain income criteria. You won’t be eligible for legal aid if you have:
- An income of more than £2,657 per month before tax
- More than £733 in disposable income
- More than £8,000 worth of disposable capital (sellable possessions or investments) or £3,000 in matters related to immigration.
What if you’re not eligible for Legal Aid?
If you find you’re not eligible for Legal Aid but still can’t afford to pay for representation, there are other sources of free legal advice available.
LawWorks is a charity providing help for those who need legal advice but aren’t eligible for Legal Aid. They connect volunteer legal professionals in England and Wales with those who need help.
Advocate is another charity that helps those in need to find free legal help from barristers to represent them in court. They match-make barristers with people who need help.
Law Centres Network
Law Centres Network aims to defend the rights of those who need legal help but can’t afford to hire a lawyer. They work within local communities to defend local people. Law Centres specialise in social welfare law and the issues facing those in the local community.
If you are a member of a trade union, you might be able to get legal help there. Many trade unions offer free legal advice and not necessarily just regarding work.
Citizen Advice provides an invaluable source of advice and information on everything from work, benefits, debt, housing, family, health, immigration and also legal matters.
For those facing problems withdrawing a pension or experiencing retirement home issues, you can get help and support from a charity such as Age UK. They don’t provide legal services specifically but there is plenty of information on offer that can help point you in the right direction.
Money Advice Service
This is a Government-backed statutory body which aims to improve people’s “understanding and knowledge of financial matters”. If you have found yourself with money and legal troubles, the Money Advice Service can help. It offers free money advice online, over the phone or even in person.
Want to look for paid help after all?
If you decide to look for paid help, after all, you can find a solicitor through The Law Society. This website shows legal representatives in your local area and you can see what areas of law they specialise in. We would always recommend hiring a lawyer who specialises in your situation as this dramatically increases your chances of winning a case.
In some cases, it might be worth looking at law firms who offer discounted rates. For example, some may offer it for specific cases or initial consultations.
We hope this post has helped to point you in the right direction. Knowing you need legal help is stressful enough, but if you know that you can’t afford to pay for help in the first place, it’s even worse. Luckily, there is help available from the above services.
We would recommend first checking whether you’re eligible for Legal Aid because it’s still a useful resource. However, if you’re not eligible or you would rather not wait for availability, you can seek the help of a charity.