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Finding free or affordable legal help

This advice applies to England

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 - find out more on GOV.UK

If you're arrested, you can get free legal advice from a solicitor before the police question you - it doesn't matter what your income is.

You can find out about your rights when under arrest on GOV.UK.

If you're on a low income and your case is serious, legal aid might pay some or all of your legal costs.

You might get legal aid, for example, if:

  • 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 taking a case to court under discrimination laws
  • 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.

Crimes are harmful acts such as violence or theft.

Civil cases are often private disputes between people - for example, because of relationship breakdown or a poor quality purchase. Civil cases also include disputes about government or local services such as benefits or social care.

You can:

You can also ask your nearest Citizens Advice 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.

Ask your local Citizens Advice

Your nearest Citizens Advice might be able to help you with these sorts of problems:

  • benefits
  • community care
  • debt
  • disability rights
  • discrimination
  • employment rights
  • family law
  • housing and homelessness
  • immigration and asylum
  • mental health

You can contact your nearest Citizens Advice to see if they can advise on your problem.

Find a law centre

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

  • benefits
  • community care
  • disability rights
  • discrimination
  • education rights
  • employment rights
  • family law
  • housing and homelessness
  • immigration and asylum
  • mental health
  • young people and children's rights

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. The charity's website also has information on other organisations that might help you.

Getting referred to the Bar Pro Bono Unit

If your case is going to court or a tribunal, you might get a volunteer barrister to represent you for free through the Bar Pro Bono Unit.

You can check if the Bar Pro Bono Unit might help you on its website.

If you think the Bar Pro Bono Unit can help, contact your nearest Citizens Advice. You have to be referred to the unit by an adviser. You can also ask a law centre or your MP to refer you.

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.

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. No win, no fee agreements are sometimes known as 'conditional' or 'contingency'.

If you win the case, your solicitor will usually be paid by the other side.

If you lose, you won't usually pay your solicitor's fee but you'll still have to pay something. You'll usually have to pay the other side's costs. You might have to pay your solicitor's expenses.

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

The details of what you'll pay will be in the agreement. You should read the agreement carefully. Don't sign it unless you're sure it's right for you.

If you want help understanding what the agreement will mean for you, contact your nearest Citizens Advice.

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. You can't use your own solicitor unless it says you can in your insurance terms and conditions.

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 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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