Where to find legal help in the ACT

Contributed by Hannah Lee and current to March 2022

There are plenty of situations where you may need legal advice. Examples of these situations include:
  • If your landlord is making unreasonable demands;
  • If you have been questioned by police;
  • If you are being underpaid;
  • If you are injured at work;
  • If your visa has been denied;
  • If you are experiencing domestic violence;
  • If your belongings have been stolen;
  • If you have been injured during a cosmetic or medical treatment;
  • If you need to dispute debts;
  • If you want to establish a business;
  • If you have paid for a good or service that you did not receive;
  • If you need to certify your identification or submit a statutory declaration;
  • If you have been served with a court summons.
Legal help can be separated into two forms, legal assistance and pro-bono legal aid.

Legal assistance is provided by law firms or individual legal practitioners at a charge.

The ACT Law Society lists every registered legal practitioner practising in the ACT. The ACT Law Society can also recommend practitioners who can help with specific types of legal problems.

Legal aid is advice and/or representation which is provided by legal practitioners at no cost or at a significantly reduced price. Legal aid is often provided by community law centres. Community law centres which are essentially not-for-profit law firms, that often deal with a specific area of law. The community legal centres operating in the ACT are:

Tel: 02) 6249 8488
Website: http://www.alsnswact.org.au/

Animal Defender's Office

Tel: 0428 416 857
Email: contact@ado.org.au
Website: www.ado.org.au

Canberra Community Law

Tel: 133 677
Email: info@canberracommunitylaw.org.au
Website: http://www.canberracommunitylaw.org.au

Consumer Law Centre

Tel: (02) 6143 0044
Email: admin@carefcs.org
Website: http://www.carefcs.org/consumer-law-centre-act.html

Environmental Defender's Office

Tel: (02) 6230 6627
Email: info@edo.org.au | canberra@edo.org.au
Website: http://www.edoact.org.au/

Tel: 1300 654 314 (Legal Aid Helpline - you can book appointments by calling the Helpline)
Website: https://legalaidact.org.au/contact-legal-aid#:~:text=Small%20Business%20Clinic,Aid%20ACT%20Helpline.

Tel: (02) 6243 3411
Email: legalaid@legalaidact.org.au
Website: www.legalaidact.org.au

Tel: (02) 9264 9595
Email: info@clcs.org.au
Website: https://clcs.org.au

Tenants' Union

Website: https://www.tenantsact.org.au/

Tel: (02) 6257 4377
Website: https://womenslegalact.org/

Youth Law Centre

Tel: (02) 6173 5410
Website: https://legalaidact.org.au/what-we-do/youth-law-centre

Legal Aid

Legal Aid ACT can either represent ACT residents in relation to certain types of legal problems (for example, family law and criminal law) or, alternatively, provide a grant of assistance to assist ACT residents to cover their legal costs.

To determine a person’s eligibility for a grant of assistance, Legal Aid ACT considers:

1. Do you need legal assistance but cannot afford a lawyer?

This is determined by means and assets tests. You will need to supply information about your income and financial assets.

2. Is your case the type of case in which a grant of assistance can be offered?

The Legal Aid Legal Assistance Guidelines list the types of cases in which Legal Aid can provide support. If your type of case is not listed in the guidelines, it is unlikely that you will receive legal assistance.

3. It is reasonable, in all circumstances, to offer a grant of assistance to you?

Reasonableness is determined by consideration of:
  • how you would benefit from legal assistance;
  • whether you would be disadvantaged without assistance;
  • the likely outcome of your case;
  • whether a sensible person would risk their own money to fund your case;
  • if the costs of providing assistance are justified by the likely benefit to you or the community.
The Legal Aid Legal Assistance Guidelines provide more information on the kinds of information that should be submitted with an application for Legal Aid.

ACT Law Society

The ACT Law Society operates two services for ACT residents.

The Pro-Bono Clearing House refers people, who do not qualify for Legal Aid, to lawyers willing to provide legal services at no cost or at a reduced rate. To determine eligibility to receive pro bono help, the Clearing House considers:
  • whether the applicant can obtain a grant of Legal Aid;
  • whether the case is in the ‘public interest’;
  • the likelihood of the case being successful;
  • whether the applicant is in financial need; and
  • whether the applicant is likely to suffer serious injustice without legal representation.
The Law Society also runs a Legal Advice Bureau where ACT residents can book a free 15-minute appointment to speak with a lawyer. The Bureau operates over lunchtime (between 12.30pm and 2pm) at the ACT Law Society’s offices. The volunteer lawyers at the bureau cannot appear in court or draft documents but they can point residents in the right direction.

More information on these services, see the ACT Law Society’s website.

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