Getting legal help
Finding the right lawyer
Community legal centres, Victoria Legal Aid and pro bono/legal assistance schemes provide free legal services to the public. There are eligibility criteria for assistance. Private lawyers charge clients for their services, however some lawyers offer an initial free thirty minute consultation or accept clients on a “no win no charge” basis.
The information here is to help you find the right organisation that can assist you with your legal issue. If you are unsure, you can call the Federation on (03) 9652 1500 or your local community legal centre for help.
Community legal centres
Community legal centres (sometimes called 'CLCs') are independent community organisations that provide free legal services to the public. We focus on helping clients who face economic and social disadvantage and who are ineligible for legal aid and cannot afford a private lawyer.
Community legal centres can provide legal information, initial advice and in some cases ongoing assistance.
There are two types of community legal centres in Victoria: generalist community legal centres and specialist community legal centres.
Generalist community legal centres provide services on a range of legal issues to people in their local area. There are generalist community legal centres across metropolitan Melbourne and rural and regional Victoria.
Generalist community legal centres may be able to assist with legal issues including:
- credit and debt
- car accidents
- family law
- family violence and sexual assault
- family violence intervention orders (click here for more information)
- victims of crime compensation
- wills and powers of attorney
- neighbourhood disputes
- fines and some criminal matters.
Specialist community legal centres:
- can help with particular areas or law, such as tenancy, consumer, employment, welfare, human rights, environmental issues and immigration law; or
- assist specific groups of people, such as young people, women, or people with mental illness or disabilities.
Each community legal centres has different eligibility guidelines as to who they can help, what legal issues they can help with and how much help they can provide. As a general rule, when assessing eligibility, a community legal centres will look at issues including:
- the type of legal matter
- the availability of other assistance (private lawyer or legal aid)
- the merits of your matter (whether it has a good chance of success)
- your ability to help yourself
- the capacity of the centre to assist.
If the community legal centres cannot help you, they may be able to refer you to another organisation that can help.
Alternatively, contact the Federation of Community Legal Centres (Vic) by phone Monday to Friday on 03 9652 1500.
Victoria Legal Aid
Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) is a government funded agency set up to ensure that people who cannot afford to pay for a private lawyer can get help with their legal problems.
VLA provides free legal information, education and advice for all Victorians. VLA fund legal representation for people who meet eligibility criteria based on their financial situation, the nature and seriousness of their problem and their individual circumstances.
VLA can help people with legal problems about criminal matters, family breakdown, child protection and family violence, immigration, social security, mental health, discrimination, guardianship and administration, tenancy and debt.
- free legal information through their website, Legal Help line, community legal education, publications and other resources
- legal advice through their Legal Help line and free clinics on specific legal issues
- minor assistance to help people negotiate, write letters, draft documents or prepare for self-representation in court
- grants of legal aid to pay for legal representation by a lawyer in private practice or a VLA staff lawyer.
1300 792 387
Private lawyers across Victoria can provide you with legal advice and representation in relation to range of matters. Fees vary depending on the law firm and the type of work.
The Law Institute of Victoria has information on choosing a private lawyer and a legal referral service to refer you to a private lawyer that can help with your legal issue. Lawyers listed through the referral service offer a free 30 minute initial consultation over the phone.
Depending on the type of legal issue and the chances of success, some lawyers may offer to help you on a “no win no charge” basis. This means that you do not need to pay your lawyer’s fees unless your matter is successful. Conditions apply to these types of arrangements.
For assistance with finding a private lawyer, contact the Law Institute of Victoria.
(03) 9607 9550
Pro bono and legal assistance schemes
Pro bono is work done by private lawyers for free or without expectation of a fee. Many law firms have pro bono schemes where they provide free legal services to people who cannot otherwise get legal help.
Justice Connect can help individuals to access pro bono assistance. Justice Connect coordinates a number of pro bono schemes in Victoria.
As a general rule, Justice Connect may be able to help you find pro bono legal assistance if:
- your matter has merit (a good chance of success)
- you are ineligible for legal aid
- you meet a means test
- your matter has public interest.
(03) 8636 4400