Apply for legal aid
If you need ongoing legal help from a lawyer, you will need to apply for a 'grant of legal aid' and fill out a Legal Aid NSW application form. A grant of legal aid means that you have a lawyer employed by Legal Aid NSW or a private lawyer paid for by Legal Aid NSW representing you in your legal matter.
If possible, it is best to get legal advice before you apply for legal aid. Call the free legal help line LawAccess NSW on 1300 888 529 to find an advice service or search for a Legal Aid NSW service near you.
- How do I get a grant?
You need to fill in a legal aid application form to get a grant of legal aid. If you are vision impaired you can read this form using a screen reader. You can also get the legal aid application form from any Legal Aid NSW office, community legal centre, and many private lawyers.
The form has questions about your legal problem and asks you about your financial situation.
You will also need to give us:
- proof of your income, such as copies of your pay slips or a copy of your Centrelink Statement of Benefit
- last three months of your bank or credit union statements for all accounts
- other documentation depending on your legal matter
Once you have completed the form, sign and send it to:
Legal Aid NSW
PO Box K847
HAYMARKET NSW 1238
Fax it to 02 9219 5533
Take the form to your nearest Legal Aid NSW office.
- Who can help me fill out the application form?
- How do I know if I am eligible for a grant?
We have clear policies about who can get a grant of legal aid. We look at:
- what you want legal assistance for
- whether it is reasonable in all the circumstances to grant legal aid (called a merit test)
- what you earn and what you own (called a means test).
The means test looks at:
- what money you get from work, Centrelink or other sources
- if you own a car, home or anything else of value
- whether you financially support anyone else, or whether they support you.
Use our Means Test Indicator to see if you are likely to pass the means test.
Grants of legal aid are provided for a range of criminal, family or civil law matters. These may include:
- offences which may incur a gaol sentence
- family issues involving children
- matters that involve DoCs
- other issues such as discrimination and mental health.
You can also check our A to Z guide to policies and Policies in brief to see if legal aid is available for your legal problem. More detailed information about our policies are available in policy online.
If you want to discuss your matter with someone to see if legal aid may be available, you can contact LawAccess NSW on 1300 888 529 or go to your nearest Legal Aid Office.
- Am I eligible for legal aid if I am working?
You might be. One of the policies about who can get a grant of legal aid, looks at how much you earn, and what you own (our means test).
You can use our Means Test Indicator to check whether or not you may qualify under the means test.
- My ex-partner has got legal aid – can I still get a grant?
Your application will be looked at separately from your ex-partner's. If you meet our policies about who can get a grant (See Q3 above - How do I know if I am eligible for a grant?), you will still be eligible for legal aid.
Sometimes a Legal Aid NSW lawyer cannot assist you because we are acting for another person in your dispute. If you are granted legal aid and this happens, we will pay a private lawyer to help you.
- What can a lawyer do for me if I get a grant?
A lawyer can:
- give you legal advice
- help reach agreement for you
- prepare legal documents
- speak for you in court.
- If I get a grant, is it free?
No, a grant of legal aid is not free. You will usually be asked to pay:
- some money towards your legal costs at the start of your case
- some or all of your legal costs at the end of your case
- Is there a limit to the amount I can get?
Yes, for some legal problems there are limits on the amount of the grant. This is called a cost ceiling. If you get a grant of legal assistance we will let you know what this limit is. You can also ask your lawyer.
It is important you understand these limits. If your grant runs out and the case is not finished, you might have to finish your case without our assistance. You can ask us how much grant money you have left at any stage.
- How does my lawyer get paid?
We pay your lawyer directly. Your lawyer is not allowed to charge you whilst you have a grant of legal aid. However, you will have to pay your lawyer for any costs before you get a grant of legal aid or for any costs incurred if your grant is concluded or terminated.
- How long does it take to get a grant?
Most applications for a grant of legal aid are processed within two weeks.
To help us process your application quickly, make sure you complete the checklist at the end of the legal aid application form before sending it in. You need to send us all the relevant paperwork such as copies of court documents and bank statements.
- What are the conditions of a grant?
The standard conditions of a grant of legal aid are:
- You will usually need to pay a contribution towards the cost of the legal services.
- You must tell us immediately if:
- you change your address
- your financial details or other details change
- you become aware of information likely to affect your eligibility for legal aid
- you want to change your solicitor. You cannot change your solicitor without our agreement
- there are any other changes that may affect your eligibility.
- You authorise any lawyer who is acting for you, or who has acted for you, to give Legal Aid NSW information necessary for it to perform its functions under the Legal Aid Commission Act 1979.
- Your lawyer is not allowed to get any money from you while you are getting legal aid
- If a court awards you costs, or another party agrees to pay costs to you, those costs are to be paid to Legal Aid NSW. Legal Aid NSW may stop or change your grant of legal aid if you do not observe any of the conditions or follow the advice of your lawyer. If Legal Aid NSW stops your grant you may have to pay all legal costs up to that time.
- There may also be other special conditions that are explained in the letter you get from Legal Aid NSW if you get a grant.
- Who do I contact to find out where my grant is up to?
If you have applied for legal aid and want to check on the progress of your application, you can contact the Grants Division on 02 9219 5880.
- Can I appeal a decision?
In most matters, if you do not agree with the decision either because you have been refused legal aid or because you do not agree with the conditions, you can apply to have the decision reviewed by an independent committee called the Legal Aid Review Committee. Generally you will need to lodge your appeal within 28 days.
- Who can help if I am not eligible for a grant?
Call LawAccess NSW on 1300 888 529 to get information about your legal problem and to find out more about who can help you.
- Community Legal Centres give free legal advice and are found in a range of locations around NSW.
- Aboriginal Legal Services provide legal services to Aboriginal people throughout NSW.
- Tenants Advice and Advocacy Services provide free information, advice and advocacy to tenants throughout New South Wales.
- Legal Information Access Centres provide access to information about the law.
- Staff at Local Court registries can give you assistance with Local Court processes and forms.
- Community Justice Centres provide a free mediation service for people in dispute with friends, family members or neighbours.
- The Law Society of NSW Community Referral Service can refer you to private lawyers in your area.
- Pro bono schemes can refer your matter to a lawyer who may be able to take on your case for no charge or a substantially reduced charge.