Do you have a legal need that you can’t afford to address?

Does your legal matter fall outside the established guidelines for Legal Aid?

We understand that this can happen to anybody. The ACT Law Society, the ACT legal profession and Community Legal Centres, and the Legal Aid Commission established the ACT Pro Bono Clearing House to help members of the ACT community.

Please note that the Pro Bono Clearing House does not deal with Family Law matters.

Supported by the ACT Law Society and the ACT Bar Association, the Pro Bono Clearing House matches people and organisations in genuine need of pro bono legal assistance with either a law firm or a Community Legal Centre able to provide that assistance.

However, our members are not obliged to accept a referral, so we cannot guarantee that legal assistance will be provided in all matters that meet the eligibility criteria.

What is 'pro bono'?

‘Pro bono’ means ‘for the public good’. Lawyers doing pro bono work do not charge professional fees for their time. They may charge for other expenses, depending on the type of matter, a person’s circumstances, and the firm’s or lawyers’ pro bono policy.

Applications will be accepted from individuals, and from not-for-profit organisations or community groups (whose purpose is primarily charitable) from the ACT community. Applicants must be able to demonstrate a financial need for pro bono legal assistance.

You may also be eligible for assistance if you are likely to suffer a serious injustice without legal representation, if you are not eligible for a grant of Legal Aid, or if you have insufficient means to afford legal services at professional charging rates.

In order to be eligible for referral from the PBCH, you must meet the following criteria:

  • You cannot obtain Legal Aid or assistance from a Community Legal Centre.
  • You cannot afford a lawyer.
  • You cannot obtain “no win, no fee” legal assistance (often available in personal injury and compensation claims).

When the PBCH cannot help:

  • Matters that are so urgent that we could not complete a sufficient assessment or reasonably ask lawyers to accept a pro bono referral.
  • Matters which do not apply ACT law or which are not otherwise connected to the ACT, for example, a matter being heard in a court outside of the ACT.
  • Matters which are customarily or can adequately be dealt with by the applicant without legal representation or assistance.
  • Disputes going through internal complaints mechanisms.

We accept applications in the following areas:

  • Administrative
  • Bankruptcy
  • Some commercial matters
  • Some civil litigation matters
  • Copyright
  • Construction and building
  • Contract
  • Criminal
  • Credit and debt
  • Human rights and discrimination
  • Employment
  • Elder abuse
  • Environmental planning and local government
  • Tenancy
  • Privacy
  • Migration
  • Property
  • Wills, probate and estates
  • Other matters on a discretionary basis, given they are in the public interest or have reasonable prospects of success

We do not accept:

  • Animal rights
  • Personal injury and negligence (including medical negligence)
  • Environmental law matters apart from environmental planning matters
  • Building disputes
  • Uncontested deceased estates
  • Complaints about solicitors
  • Workers and victim’s compensation claims
  • Family law matters
  • Complex commercial disputes or business matters, unless in our view the circumstances warrant pro bono assistance and the matter otherwise meets our eligibility criteria.
  • Native Title matters.

The Clearing House will not deal with a matter if it is thought that the assistance should be provided by the Legal Aid Office. To find out more about Legal Aid, call 02 6243 3411 or visit www.legalaidact.org.au.

Applying to the Clearing House is free.

Once your matter is referred to a law firm you will need to ask that firm what, if any, charges you will need to pay them. The firm must seek approval from the Clearing House to levy charges, and it must provide reasons for doing so prior to the commencement of any work.

If you have any concerns please contact the Pro Bono Clearing House Administrator.

The Law Society and the Clearing House treats all information provided as confidential.

The Law Society and the Clearing House may discuss your application with one or more lawyers when determining who to refer your application to.

Your application and any related documentation will be kept by the Law Society during the assessment process. Once your application has been accepted or declined, your application and supporting documentation will either be forwarded to the law firm the matter has been referred to, returned to you, or securely destroyed.

Neither the Clearing House nor the Law Society will retain any original documents or copies of original documents provided by you.

Step 1

Contact the Clearing House Administrator on 02 6274 0300 to make an appointment for an interview. All interviews are conducted on Monday morning (when a public holiday falls on Monday, interviews will be scheduled on the previous Friday or following Tuesday). Interviews are conducted at the offices of the Law Society at Level 4, 1 Farrell Place, Canberra City.

Step 2

Complete the application form below. Please make sure you complete all applicable sections. Assistance can be provided if you have difficulty completing the form.

Step 3

Bring the application form with you to the interview, together with:

  • Any relevant information and supporting documents. In particular, please provide copies of any court or tribunal documents.
  • Three payslips or a bank statement or a Centrelink statement or any other evidence of your income.

At your interview, you will meet with the Operational Secondee, whose role is to go through your application with you to get an understanding of your matter and the type of legal assistance you are seeking. This interview is also an opportunity to ensure you have all the necessary documentation that the Clearing House needs to assess your application. The Operational Secondee cannot provide you with any legal advice.

Step 4

Your application will be reviewed by an Assessment Panel to determine whether it meets the eligibility criteria for referral. While the Clearing House tries to assess applications as quickly as possible, it may take some time to get back to you.

Step 5

Applications that meet the criteria will be referred on to a law firm. If a firm accepts your matter, you will be asked to contact the firm directly to arrange an appointment with them. Before starting any work on your matter, arrangements for legal representation need to be discussed, including any costs that may be incurred.

Step 6

If your matter cannot be referred out, or if we cannot assist you, you will receive a letter providing reasons why the Clearing House is unable to assist you.

 

More information

Eligibility criteria and an application form can be found below. For further information please contact the Pro Bono Clearing House Administrator, Samantha Philipse, on
02 6274 0300 or email pbch@actlawsociety.asn.au.

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