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Help with legal costs - free or affordable help
If you need legal advice and you can't afford to pay for it, you may be able to get free or affordable help or advice in other ways.
Find out how you can go about getting legal help when you need it.
Help with your legal costs – legal aid
Depending on the kind of problem you have, and on your financial circumstances, you may be able to get legal aid. This means that you can get free legal advice, or may only have to pay something towards your legal bill.
In some areas, there are law centres which give free legal advice. They are staffed by solicitors and other specialist caseworkers and tend to specialise in housing, employment, immigration, debt, welfare benefits, community care and discrimination cases. A law centre may take up a case where legal aid is not available, although it may also have a contract to provide legal aid.
You can get the address of your local law centre from the Law Centres Network, or you can search their website. The contact details are:
Fixed fee interview
Some solicitors may give up to half an hour’s legal advice for a pre-agreed or fixed fee. Some schemes may offer a certain amount of free advice. This can be useful if you want to get an idea of whether you have a case which is worth defending or pursuing.
The fixed fee interview scheme does not depend on your income or savings - the charge will be the same for everyone.
Your local Citizens Advice Bureau may give you details of solicitors who can offer this service. Some bureaux may also have arrangements with local solicitors who give free initial advice at the bureau.
Alternatively, you can search for solicitors in your local area on the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk. The website will show if a particular solicitor offers a fixed fee interview. It's also worth contacting solicitors or checking their websites for more information about fixed fee interviews and other affordable options they may offer.
Conditional fee agreements
In all civil non-family cases you may be able to enter into a conditional fee agreement with a solicitor. This means that if you lose the case, you will only have to pay the costs of the other side and, depending on the agreement, the expenses that the solicitor has to pay out, including any barrister’s fees. If you win the case, you will pay your solicitor a higher fee. In certain cases, you can take out a special insurance policy which can cover your costs if you lose the case.
If you are thinking about signing up to a conditional fee agreement, you should read the conditions of the agreement very carefully.
Legal expenses insurance is often sold as part of your household contents insurance policy or with you car insurance. Legal expenses insurance that comes with your household insurance tends to include legal help with personal injury, employment disputes, property disputes (for example about boundaries) and disputes about goods or services you bought or hired. Legal expenses insurance with car insurance generally covers the cost of pursuing losses because of accidents that were not your fault. It usually covers compensation for injury, damage to the car, and uninsured losses such as policy excess and car hire.
It is important for you to consider carefully what your specific policy offers. Many policies will exclude certain kinds of legal expenses or may not meet the total cost of the case.
You may have another insurance policy or credit card which offers you legal advice as an extra. It’s worth checking your insurance policies and credit card agreements if you have a legal problem.
If you have legal expenses insurance, your policy will usually specify how you can get legal advice. This usually means getting advice from a solicitor or another legal adviser that is specifically chosen or approved by your insurance provider. Your legal adviser may only be able to take your case on if they believe your case is likely to be successful and it's worth it.
If you're a member of a trade union, your union may provide free legal representation for a variety of problems, not just work-related issues. Free union representation may be more suitable for you than Legal Representation because you won’t have to make a financial contribution towards legal help from your union.
Motoring organisations may offer a cheap or free legal advisory service if you are a member.
Subscribers or members
Other organisations, like Which?, offer a legal advisory service if you pay a subscription.
- More information about Which? Legal Service at www.whichlegalservice.co.uk
Pro-bono (free) help
LawWorks may be able to arrange free legal help for you if you can't get legal aid or afford to pay for legal advice. It arranges legal help through free advice clinics, mediation and casework.
For casework, it can take up to eight weeks to find you a volunteer lawyer and LawWorks are not able to help with criminal, immigration, asylum and family cases.
- More information and details of how to apply for help at www.lawworks.org.uk
You can contact LawWorks at:
National Pro Bono Centre
48 Chancery Lane
Bar Pro Bono Unit
The Bar Pro Bono Unit provides people with free legal advice and representation in court and tribunal cases from volunteer barristers. It only helps people who cannot afford to pay and cannot get legal aid.
Your case must be referred to the Bar Pro Bono Unit by a solicitor or advice agency such as a CAB, law centre or MP. You can get further information from the Bar Pro Bono Unit's website at www.barprobono.org.uk.
You can contact the Bar Pro Bono Unit at:
The Bar Pro Bono Unit
The National Pro Bono Centre
48 Chancery Lane
Other useful information
- More about where you can get free legal help or advice on the Law Centres Federation website at www.lawcentres.oi-dev.org