There are many legal advice and assistance services. Some are discussed in the following paragraphs and effort is made to continually update and include them all in the Legal Assistance Guide, available to view and download under "Legal Help" on the Publications Page. Agencies offering specialist services are discussed in the particular chapter dealing with that area of law. For information about the services available in a particular area, contact the nearest office of the Commission, or the nearest courthouse or ask a private lawyer where to go for free advice.
Community legal services exist nationwide to provide legal advice, referral and ongoing assistance. Each year a significant number of people in South Australia benefit from these services. They are professional organisations which are independent of government and funded through a variety of sources including the Commonwealth and State governments, public donations and fund raising.
Community legal services provide a range of legal and non-legal services to their communities. Their 'community' may be a geographical area (such as the Northern Community Legal Service) or a special interest area such as the Social Security division of Uniting Communities Law Centre or Environmental Defenders Office. In general, they help people who are not eligible for legal aid but cannot afford a private lawyer. They assist by providing advice and referrals, negotiating on behalf of clients, preparing legal documents, and in some cases, representing clients in court. Some community legal services have financial counsellors, and mediation services.
Each service employs a small number of staff and most utilise the voluntary services of a considerable number of lawyers, other professionals and tertiary students. They are run by volunteer management committees drawn from their community.
South Australian Council of Community Legal Services
Phone : 08 8342 1800
Fax: 08 8342 0899
For a referral to a Community Legal Service, contact the Legal Helpline on 1300 366 424
National Association of Community Legal Centres Inc
Phone: 02 9264 9595
Fax: 02 9264 9594
The Law Society of South Australia provides a number of legal services to the community.
The Law Society provides a referral service for members of the public requiring legal advice or assistance. Referrals can be provided according to specific areas of law (e.g. family law, personal injuries, wills and estates), geographic location, language and if necessary, home/hospital visits.
After Hours Legal Advice
An after hours advice and referral service is provided at the Law Society's office in Adelaide, at 178 North Terrace. The service is staffed by volunteer lawyers who provide preliminary advice and, if necessary, refer clients to either a legal aid agency or a private lawyer. A fee of $35 (or $25 concession) is charged.
Twenty minute interviews are available by appointment between 5:30pm to 7:00pm on Mondays and Wednesdays. Contact the Law Society on 8229 0200 to make an appointment.
First Interview Scheme
Many lawyers participate in this scheme, which provides a first interview of up to 30 minutes for a fee of $35.00 including GST. There is no means test on this service. Check with the lawyer or firm concerned as to what conditions apply.
Lawyers participating in this scheme are listed on the Law Society's Referral Service.
The Litigation Assistance Fund is a charitable trust established by the Law Society of South Australia. It aims to assist plaintiffs to proceed with litigation where they would be otherwise unable to afford to sue. It is available to both individuals and companies.
What type of matters can it assist with?
Assistance is provided for civil matters only. Examples of the types of matters that the Fund can assist with are matters such as inheritance claims, personal injury claims, professional negligence claims and commercial disputes. However the Fund cannot assist with family law matters, including matrimonial or de facto property matters.
Who is eligible for assistance?
Means test — an applicant can have a family income of up to $130,000 gross, in addition to assets such as a house and a car, of “reasonable value”.
Merits test — the merits of the case are considered by a panel of three experienced legal practitioners. The panel takes into account the prospects for success, the amount of damages claimed and the likelihood of recovering the amount claimed.
The Fund can only assist people who are resident in South Australia or whose cause of action arose when they were resident in South Australia and there is a sufficient connection to the state, as per the Rules of the Litigation Assistance Fund.
How do I apply for assistance?
To apply for assistance you must first see a lawyer and complete an Application for Assistance. A fee of $100 (or $250 in urgent cases) must accompany the application, although the fee may be waived in cases of special hardship.
What happens if I win my case?
If your case is successful the Fund receives 15% of the damages awarded or settlement monies received plus reimbursement of the legal costs and disbursements paid by it.
What happens if I lose my case?
If you lose your case you will not have to repay the Fund but will still be responsible for paying the other side's costs.
Are there any other options available for assistance?
In addition to the Litigation Assistance Fund, there is also the Disbursements Only Fund. This Fund pays disbursements such as court filing fees, medical and other expert reports, witness fees, transcript and trial fees. It does not pay solicitor's or barrister's fees.The applicant must enter into a contingency agreement with her or his lawyer in order to be eligible for this form of assistance. This allows the lawyer to charge on a contingency basis. A contingency basis means the lawyer only gets paid if the case is won, but it also provides that they can charge up to double the fees normally charged.
If the case is won the Fund will have to be repaid the monies outlaid for disbursements and an additional amount of between 25% and 100% of the disbursements paid will be levied.
The Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement is run by a council of Aboriginal people elected by the Aboriginal community. It provides comprehensive legal advice and assistance through its staff lawyers and, where appropriate, private lawyers, to people of Aboriginal descent and their spouses. There is no means test and contributions are not normally required, although a merit test is applied before assistance is given for appeals.
The Movement also employs field officers who are trained in legal procedures and can advise or represent clients in many situations where a lawyer is not present. As well as giving advice and assistance in court, field officers act as links between lawyers and their Aboriginal clients by explaining the law, providing follow-up services to clients with problems and drawing the Movement's attention to areas of concern within the Aboriginal community.
A field officer or staff lawyer is generally available at the Magistrates Court and Youth Court in Adelaide and at the Port Adelaide, Ceduna, Murray Bridge and Port Augusta courts. Field officers are also available twenty four hours a day seven days a week through the Movement's offices for attendance at police stations during interviews to make sure that Aboriginal people fully understand any charges made against them and that they are given their legal rights.
Where the Movement cannot, or for some reason thinks it should not, give legal aid (for example, in disputes between Aboriginal people), cases are referred to the Commission or some other legal assistance service.
Many unions have arrangements with private law firms to provide free services to union members. These services are mainly for workers compensation or other matters arising out of the person's employment, but in some cases free legal advice is also given.
There is a Young Workers Legal Service supported by South Australian unions. It is for workers who are under 30 with employment related issues. Telephone 8279 2233 or make an appointment online at www.ywls.org.au .
JusticeNet SA coordinates free legal help for individuals and charitable not-for-profit organisations that cannot afford a lawyer.
Who is eligible?
Those that are eligible must:
Whether your matter raises an issue of public interest and whether you would suffer significant injustice without help or whether you could be expected to self-represent will also be considered in assessing your eligibility.
An application may take up to two weeks to process, depending on its complexity.
If you are elligible, JusticeNet will attempt to refer you to refer you to a lawyer for help with your legal matter (but member lawyers are not obliged to accept referrals).
What does it cost?
You need not pay any fee to lodge an application; JusticeNet will assess your application free of charge.
If JusticeNet refers you to a lawyer for free legal help, you will not need to pay for the legal services provided, but you will usually have to pay for any disbursements (for example, for experts reports or court filing fees) that are required in your matter.
Further, if your matter goes to a court or tribunal and you lose the case there may be an order that you pay the other party's costs, which are not covered by JusticeNet.
How do I apply?
Before applying, it is best to telephone JusticeNet and discuss your application. You will then need to complete an application form and lodge it, together with any supporting documentation that is required, with JusticeNet.
Phone: 08 8313 5005
Justices of the Peace can witness legal documents including statutory declarations and affidavits, as well as certifying true copies of a document. Their services are provided without charge. Notaries public also witness legal documents but primarily documents that are for use in foreign courts or by foreign authorities. Notaries public can charge for their services. Justice of the Peace Services which is part of the Attorney-general's Department is responsible for the administration of the application, appointment, conduct and removal of Justices of the Peace.
Who can be a JP?
Anyone can be a JP as long as they are over 18, a South Australian resident, of good character, understand their duties and powers, can speak English well enough to understand documents, their duties and seek advice where necessary, and they must not be a bankrupt nor be disqualified from managing a corporation. They too must live or work in an area that requires a JP. A JP is appointed by the Attorney-General [see Justices of the Peace Act 2005 (SA) s 4 and Justices of the Peace Regulations 2006 (SA) reg 4].
What are the powers and duties of a JP?
The main duty of a JP is to act as an independent and objective witness for legal documents and proceedings. This includes witnessing or attesting the execution of a document, take an affidavit or statutory declaration, certify a true copy of an original document and certifying the identity of a person. For more information see the Justice of the Peace Handbook.
Code of Conduct
JPs must comply with a code of conduct [see Justices of the Peace Regulations 2006 (SA) sch 1]. This includes not charging a fee for services, acting within their powers, not divulging confidential informationand not acting where they have a conflict of interest. Importantly, they can not administer an oath, witness an instrument or take a declaration from a person they believe does not hold the mental capacity to do so. For more information see the Justice of the Peace Code of Conduct.
How can I complain about a JP?
A complaint can be made if a JP has breached or failed to comply with a condition of employment or breaches or fails to comply with the code of conduct, or with the Justices of the Peace Act 2005 (SA) [see s 11]. Complaints are made to Justice of the Peace Services and can result in the JP being reprimanded, imposing further conditions on their appointment or suspended. In certain circumstances a JP can be removed from office, in cases such as being convicted of a criminal offence, becoming bankrupt, being physically or mentally unfit for office, or in the Attorney-General's opinion should be removed for any other reason [see Jucitces of the Peace Act 2005 (SA) s 11].
Royal Association of Justices of SA
Your Story Disability Legal Support is a free, independent legal support service.
It provides information and advice for people who want to share their story with the Disability Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability.
The Legal Services Commission of South Australia is assisting in the Your Story Disability Legal Support Service, which is a joint initiative between National Legal Aid and National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services.
Your Story Disability Legal Support Service is independent from the Disability Royal Commission, and it aims to help people with disability, as well as their families, carers, supporters and advocates.
To speak to a Your Story representative about making a submission to the Disability Royal Commission, free call 1800 771 800 from 8:00am to 4.30pm, ACST, Monday – Friday.
You can find other ways to contact a Your Story representative at the Your Story website (click image to open new window):