Are your services free?
Does Community Law Otago provide Legal Aid?
No. People often refer to our service as “legal aid”, but we do not provide legal aid services. Legal aid is government funding to pay for lawyers for people going to court who cannot afford a lawyer. It is available for people facing criminal charges, and those with a civil legal problem or family dispute that may go to court, as well as for the Waitangi Tribunal.
We, on the other hand, are a community law centre, an independent non-profit organisation.
Although we receive much of our funding through government sources, we are not connected in any way to the public services.
Importantly, our services are free to our clients, whereas people generally have to repay some or all of their legal aid back to the government.
If you need a lawyer, and cannot afford one, you can come to us for initial free legal help first. We can then refer you to the right lawyer.
Can anyone get legal help at the community law centre?
In general yes, but there are some exceptions:
- We do not provide legal advice on property or commercial issues.
- We cannot witness Relationship Property agreements or Enduring Powers of Attorney, but we can give you initial legal information about them.
- We do not usually give legal advice to landlords or employers.
- We also aim to see people who have the least financial resources. This means we will ask you some questions about your financial means. We prioritise clients who really cannot afford to see a lawyer privately.
How do the legal advice sessions work?
- The majority of our sessions are first-in, first served.
- We do not make appointments, and clients often need to wait in the waiting room.
- Clients see volunteer lawyers (with volunteer students who assist).
- Clients receive initial legal advice about their options, and referrals.
- In some limited circumstances, depending on client eligibility, our staff lawyers make take clients on, providing ongoing legal help and representation.
Conflicts of Interest
- Community Law Otago must not act for more than one party in a dispute.
- If we have already helped the other party to your dispute, we will not be able to see you.
- We will help you contact another lawyer who may be able to help.