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ProBonoUK - free legal advice

Published 07.11.11 at 12:32


The difference between public funding and pro bono

"Pro bono" is the term for free legal help for someone who cannot afford to pay for legal assistance and is not entitled to legal aid. It comes from the Latin "pro bono publico" which means "for the public good".

Individuals may be able to obtain legal aid to help with any legal costs. Whether you can or cannot depends on many things including your financial circumstances such as how much you earn and what savings you have, and the type of legal help you are looking for.

In most cases, the best first step is to visit an advice agency such as a Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), Law Centre, LawWorks or a local solicitor. You can find one near you by searching on the Law Society's Find a Solicitor online database or visiting the Community Legal Advice website. You can also call the Community Legal Advice helpline on 0845 345 4 345 or call LawWorks' helpline on pro bono advice on 0207 092 3940 .

Initial Advice

Some agencies will have legal clinics, in which volunteer lawyers help to provide free advice to clients. Some will operate telephone support lines. Some may even be able to help provide initial advice online. In many cases the advice that you receive will be all you need, but some cases need assistance that is more in-depth.

In Depth Assistance

Following the initial assessment, the agency or solicitor may be able to provide the additional help that you need or take on your case. If they cannot help you directly, they may be able to refer you to another source of help.

Can you get public funding (legal aid)?

Advice agencies and solicitors will be able to advise you whether you are able to get public funding, but you may also like to check yourself using the online legal aid eligibility calculator. If you are entitled to legal aid, you will not be eligible for pro bono help.

And what if you cannot get public funding (legal aid)?

If you are not eligible for legal aid funding, the advice agency or solicitor can refer you to an organisation that works with pro bono lawyers who may be able to help with your case. Some of these organisations are housed at the National Pro Bono Centre.

For more information and sources of help in a range of legal areas that might give you the answer you need, visit the ProBonoUK website.

Top photograph (some rights reserved) by William Couch


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