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I cannot afford a barrister, what are my options?

If you have car or bicycle insurance, travel insurance or home contents insurance, or insurance through a credit card provider or trade union, you may find that the terms of your policy or agreement include legal expenses insurance. Legal expenses insurance usually provides cover for legal advice or representation on any legal matter up to a maximum limit. If you think you may have this cover telephone your insurance company. Insurance companies often have their own legal panels and they will provide you with a suitable lawyer.

If you can’t afford legal advice or support in court, you might be able to get legal aid towards some or all of your costs for a serious problem if you’re on a low income and your case is serious. You might get legal aid, for example, if:

  • you or your children are at risk of domestic violence or forced marriage
  • you’re going to be made homeless
  • you need family mediation
  • you’re being discriminated against
  • you’re taking a case to court under the Human Rights Act
  • you’ve been accused of a crime and could go to jail

There are 2 types of legal aid, for criminal and civil cases. Crimes are harmful acts such as violence or theft. Civil cases are often private disputes between people – for example, because of relationship breakdown or purchase of a defective product. Civil cases also include disputes about government or local services such as benefits or social care.

You can: find out about legal aid on GOV.UK; find out about legal aid for family matters on the Child Law Advice website; find a legal aid solicitor on the Law Society website; or you can also ask your nearest Citizens Advice if they have a list of legal aid solicitors.

Exceptional case funding – if you can’t get legal aid, there’s a small chance you might get help through ‘exceptional case funding’. You can find out how to apply for exceptional case funding without using a legal professional on the Public Law Project website. You can ask your nearest Citizens Advice if they can help you apply.

You may be able to get assistance from Advocate. This is a charity that helps to find pro bono (free) legal assistance from volunteer barristers at all levels of experience. You will need to be referred to the Advocate by a legal adviser or solicitor.

  • Telephone: +44 (0)20 7092 3960 (Monday, Wednesday & Friday between 10:15 – 12:45)
  • Email: enquiries@weareadvocate.org.uk or use the contact form here
  • Write: Advocate, The National Pro Bono Centre, 48 Chancery Lane, London, WC2A 1JF

If you have an employment or social security issue and have a hearing date at a tribunal in London and the South East (or Nottingham) you can ask your legal adviser to refer you to the Free Representation Unit (FRU). FRU provides representation for people who are not eligible for legal aid and cannot afford lawyers. Their work is done by volunteers, mostly law students and legal professionals in the early stages of their career. All FRU’s representatives are trained and supervised by their legal officers.

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