Finding free or affordable legal help

This advice applies to England. See advice for See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland, See advice for Wales

If you can't afford legal advice or support in court, you might be able to get free or cheaper help.

You might get:

  • legal aid for a serious problem

  • free, reduced cost or fixed-fee advice from legal professionals or advice charities

  • free legal help from your trade union or other membership organisation

  • legal advice with insurance policies

  • help to pay court fees - read about help paying court fees on GOV.UK

If you've been arrested and you’re going to be questioned at a police station, you can find out about your right to free legal advice on GOV.UK - it doesn't matter what your income is.

If your case is serious and you can’t afford to pay your legal costs, legal aid might pay some or all of them.

You might get legal aid if, for example:

  • you or your children are at risk of domestic violence or forced marriage

  • you're going to be made homeless

  • you need family mediation

  • you're being discriminated against

  • you're taking a case to court under the Human Rights Act

  • you've been accused of a crime and could go to jail

There are 2 types of legal aid, for criminal and civil cases.

If your case is civil, you can:

If your case is criminal, you should ask your solicitor or barrister if you can get legal aid. Once you’ve left the police station, any legal aid you can get will be based on your income.

You can find a legal aid solicitor on GOV.UK. You can also contact your nearest Citizens Advice to ask if they have a list of legal aid solicitors.

Getting free help

Some charities or volunteer lawyers might be able to help If you can't get legal aid or pay for your own solicitor or barrister.

Get help with a consumer problem

You can contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline if you need help with a consumer problem.

Find a law centre

You might get advice from a solicitor or trained legal adviser at a law centre. Law centres cover problems with:

  • benefits

  • community care

  • discrimination

  • education 

  • employment 

  • family 

  • housing and homelessness

  • immigration and asylum

You can find your nearest law centre on the Law Centres Network website.

Contact LawWorks

You can search for a free legal advice clinic on the LawWorks website - it also has information on other organisations that might help you.

Get help from Advocate

If your case is going to court or a tribunal, you might get a volunteer barrister to represent you for free through Advocate. You can check if Advocate might help you on its website.

Exceptional case funding

If you can't get legal aid, there's a small chance you might get help through 'exceptional case funding'.

You can find out how to apply for exceptional case funding without using a legal professional on the Public Law Project website.

You can ask your nearest Citizens Advice if they can help you apply.

Using a solicitor more cheaply

You might be able to get a short appointment with a solicitor for free or a set cost. Other solicitors might work for you on a 'no win, no fee' basis.

You can check the prices for some common services on solicitors’ websites. They have to publish prices for advice on things like: 

  • sorting out the money, possessions and property of someone who’s died - known as ‘probate’

  • buying and selling a home - known as ‘residential conveyancing’ 

  • some employment tribunal cases

Getting advice for free or a fixed fee

Some solicitors give 30 minutes' legal advice for free. Some offer a fixed fee - that way you'll know in advance what the advice will cost. You can call a solicitor's office and ask if they offer a free half hour or a fixed fee.

A free or fixed-fee appointment can help you find out your rights and legal position. It's a good way to find out whether it's worth taking someone else to court or if you have a case that's worth defending.

You'll need to get the best out of your appointment. You should make a note beforehand of what you need to say and find out. You could speak to an adviser at your nearest Citizens Advice to help you decide what questions to ask the solicitor.

Take any relevant documents to the appointment. Call the solicitor's office to find out if they want you to bring any particular documents, such as a passport.

Finding a 'no win, no fee' scheme

Some solicitors offer 'no win, no fee' as a way of paying for civil cases, such as personal injury. A no win, no fee agreement is sometimes known as a 'conditional fee agreement' (CFA).

If you win the case, the solicitor's fees and expenses you agreed to will be taken from your compensation. You’ll usually be able to recover some costs from your opponent.

If you lose, you won't usually pay your solicitor's fee but you'll still have to pay something. You might have to pay the other side's costs and you might have to pay your solicitor's expenses, for example, for medical or accident reports.

You should check the agreement carefully and ask your solicitor to explain what you might have to pay if you lose your claim.

You might be able to take out a special insurance policy before the court case that'll cover your costs if you lose.

Check your no win, no fee agreement 

It's important to check your agreement carefully before you sign it. The details of what you pay will be in the agreement. Don't sign it unless you're sure it's right for you.

Finding a solicitor

You can ask your nearest Citizens Advice if they have a list of solicitors offering no win, no fee or free or fixed-fee advice.

You can find out more about using a solicitor on the Law Society website, including how to:

  • look for a solicitor who's right for your problem

  • prepare for your appointment

  • complain if you're unhappy with them

Getting help through membership or insurance

If you've joined an organisation like a trade union, they might offer you free legal help. Or you might get help with legal expenses as part of another subscription, insurance policy or credit card agreement.

Ask your trade union

Unions can sometimes offer free legal help such as finding and paying for a solicitor - and not just for work problems.

Speak to your shop steward or workplace representative or contact your union's head office to see if they can give you free legal help.

Check your insurance policies

Look at the policy documents for your car, home and other insurance policies to see if any have legal cover. Check whether they cover your type of case and whether they'll meet all your costs - most policies won't pay for everything.

Your insurers might insist that you use their legal team. If you have your own solicitor, they’ll be able to tell you if they can act for you under your insurance policy.

Contact your motoring organisation

If you've joined a motoring organisation for breakdown cover, you might find they offer cheap or free help, particularly with car or accident legal problems. Check your membership agreement or call them to find out if they can help.

Check your subscriptions

Think about what other organisations you've joined that might help. For example, Which? offers legal advice if you pay a subscription. You can find out about Which? legal services on their website.

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Page last reviewed on 14 April 2020