Get a lawyer to run your case
Get a lawyer to run your case
If you are unable to resolve your legal problem on your own and cannot afford a lawyer, we may be able to pay for a lawyer to help you. This is called a ‘grant of legal assistance’.
Grants of legal assistance are usually for criminal or family matters, but they can also be given in some other matters such as immigration, social security, mental health or discrimination cases.
A grant may pay for some or all of the following types of work:
- legal advice
- helping you resolve matters in dispute
- preparing legal documents
- representing you in court.
Who can get a grant of legal assistance
Our funds are limited and demand for legal services is high, so we have very clear rules about who can get a grant of legal assistance. This means that our money goes to help people who need us the most.
When considering if you are eligible for a grant, we look at:
- what your case is about
- the likely benefit to you
- if helping you can benefit the public
- your financial situation using a means test.
The means test applies to most adults and takes into account:
- money you get from work, welfare benefits or other sources
- if you own anything of value, like a house or car
- your weekly living expenses.
The means test also looks at whether you support anyone else, or if they support you. These people are called ‘financially associated persons’ and their income and assets are included when we work out if you are eligible for a grant.
Applying for a grant of legal assistance
You need to fill out a Grants of legal assistance – guide and application (pdf, 385.05 KB).
The form has questions about your legal problem and your financial situation to help us work out if you can get a grant of legal assistance.
You will also need to give us documents to support your application, including:
- proof of your income, such as a recent payslip or Centrelink benefit statement
- bank or credit union account statements for the last three months.
If you financially support anyone else, you will also need to give us proof of income and bank statements relating to these ‘financially associated persons’.
We can usually process most applications within five working days. To help us process your application quickly, make sure you have completed the checklist at the end of the application form.
Help with your application
Victoria Legal Aid lawyers and private lawyers who do legal aid work can help you fill out and submit an application form for free. They can also help you get information that supports your application. Call Legal Help to find out who can help you.
If you get a grant
If you are eligible for a grant of legal assistance we will send a letter to you and to the lawyer running your case. The letter will tell you:
- how much money we have allowed to be spent on your case (called a cost ceiling)
- any special conditions
- your lawyer’s name and contact details
- the date your assistance begins
- information about what you can do if you disagree with the terms of the grant.
On the application form you have the choice to have this letter and all other correspondence from us sent to your postal address, email address or to your lawyer.
There are usually some limits to how much money is available to pay for your case – this is called a ‘cost ceiling’.
It is important that you and your lawyer understand these limits. If the cost ceiling is reached before your case is over, you may have to:
- finish the case without our help
- apply for further assistance.
You can ask us how much money is left at any stage.
General terms of a grant
By accepting the offer of a grant of legal assistance, you also agree to the general terms and conditions of the grant, and any special conditions that are explained in the letter you get from us.
These terms include:
- You must tell us immediately if any of your circumstances change while you are getting legal assistance from us.
- You allow your lawyer to give us any information we need to carry out our functions under the Legal Aid Act 1978.
- Your lawyer must tell us if they receive any money on your behalf.
- Any costs you receive must be paid to us (however, this does not apply to damages).
We may stop or change your legal assistance if you do not follow the:
- terms and conditions of your grant
- advice of your lawyer.
You may have to pay some or all of the costs of your case up to that point.
Contributions and charges
Legal assistance is not always free. You may be asked to:
- pay some money towards the cost of running your case – this is called a contribution
- agree to a charge over any house or land you own or are buying.
This will be explained in the letter. The amount you might have to pay depends on your financial situation.
Selecting your lawyer
If you don’t have a lawyer, we will allocate one according to who we think can help you best.
If you would like a particular lawyer to act for you, you can let us know on your application form. Depending on the type of case you need help with, we will usually try to accommodate your request.
Paying your lawyer
Your lawyer is paid directly by us, and they are not allowed to ask you to pay any costs for services performed under your grant of legal aid. If you do get a bill from your lawyer let us know immediately.
Call us on (09) 9269 0120 or 1800 677 402 (country callers) to find out about getting a grant of legal assistance.