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Do you need legal advice but can't afford to pay professional legal fees? Does your legal need fall outside established guidelines for legal assistance, like Legal Aid? The Law Society, the ACT legal profession and Community Legal Centres understand that this can happen and have established the ACT Pro Bono Clearing House to help.
Please note that the Pro Bono Clearing House does not deal with Family Law matters.
What is ‘pro bono’ work?
‘Pro bono’ means ‘for the public good’. Lawyers doing pro bono work do not charge professional fees for their time. They may charge for other expenses, depending on the type of matter, a person’s circumstances and the lawyer’s pro bono policy.
Who can apply?
Members of the public may apply directly to the Clearing House for assistance. Community Legal Centres, members of the legal profession, politicians and public agencies can also refer people who need provide pro bono legal assistance to the Clearing House.
What does the clearing house do?
The Clearing House will examine all applications for pro bono legal assistance. Applications that meet the Clearing House’s eligibility criteria will be referred on to a network of Community Legal Centres and law firms.
If a lawyer accepts a matter through this process, he or she will contact the applicant directly and arrange to take the matter on. Before commencing any work on the matter, he or she will also discuss what expenses (if any) the applicant is likely to incur.
What sort of legal issues will the clearing house accept?
The Clearing House will assist applicants in respect of two types of matters:
- ‘public interest’ law matters that affect a significant number of people or that raise a matter of broad public concern; and
- ‘private interest’ law matters that have reasonable prospects of success.
The Clearing House will not deal with a matter if it is thought that the assistance should be provided by the Legal Aid Office, and may discuss your application with that Office. Find out more about Legal Aid at the ACT Legal Aid website.
Am I eligible for assistance?
You may be eligible for assistance from the Clearing House if you are a not-for-profit organisation or community group whose purpose is primarily charitable and you can demonstrate an appropriate financial need.
You may also be eligible for assistance if you are likely to suffer a serious injustice without legal representation, you are not eligible for a grant of Legal Aid and you are of insufficient means to afford legal services at professional charging rates.
What will it cost?
A pro bono lawyer may charge his or her client for some expenses. If your matter is accepted by a lawyer as a result of a Clearing House referral, it is up to you and that lawyer to come to an arrangement about the expenses you will have to pay. The Clearing House encourages lawyers accepting referrals to strictly limit any charges passed on to the client.
Is my application private and confidential?
The Law Society and the Clearing House will treat all information that you provide as confidential. Applicants should be aware that a Freedom of Information request or court order may compel the Law Society and the Clearing House to provide your records to a third party. The Law Society and the Clearing House may discuss your application with one or more lawyers when attempting to obtain legal assistance for you.
The Law Society will keep your application form until it is either referred to a lawyer or returned to you. The Law Society will then keep a brief record of your application.
How do I apply?
Applications for pro bono legal assistance can be downloaded from the end of this page. If you need assistance filling out your application form, you should speak to the Clearing House Administrator.
For further information please contact the Law Society on (02) 6274 0300.
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