Make contact with your local Community Law Centre

If you’re coming to us for free legal help your first contact with us will most likely be in the form of a telephone call or a face-to-face interview.

Some Community Law Centres prefer you to make appointments, while others run drop-in sessions where you don’t need an appointment.

Many centres provide specialist lawyers (for example, employment, family or immigration lawyers) at particular times. Many also provide outreach legal help – we come out to your suburb, town or marae so that you don’t have to come to us.

Some centres have Kaupapa Māori teams, with Māori lawyers and support workers, who can provide legal help within a tikanga Māori framework.

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Your first interview

During your initial interview, we’ll help you work out what your legal problems are.

We’ll work through the different choices and solutions available to you. Usually you’ll have more than one option. We can help you work out which solution best suits you, and help you to achieve it – perhaps by drafting a letter, or an agreement, or by contacting the other party.


What should I bring?

If you want to, you can bring support people with you.

You should also bring any “paperwork” about your legal problem – for example, a summons to appear in court, a copy of a protection order, your employment contract or your tenancy agreement.


What if I need an interpreter?

We can organise an interpreter to help you, either on the phone or in person.

Community Law has access to Language Line: telephone interpreting services provided by the Office of Ethnic Affairs. Language Line operates Monday to Friday: 8am – 6pm. Find out more about Language Line here.

Some Community Law Centres can also organise face-to-face interpreting services, provided by Interpreting New Zealand. You will need to check that your local centre offers this, and make an appointment in advance. Interpreting New Zealand also provides sign language interpreters.


What if one interview isn’t enough?

Often, one letter or phone call is enough to solve the problem. But if your legal problem is more complicated, Community Law may be able to give you ongoing legal help.

This means we will open a file for you at our office and work alongside you until you’ve found a solution to your legal issue.

It’s important to know we can only give you ongoing help if you meet our eligibility requirements.

If we can’t provide ongoing help we can refer you to a private lawyer who is right for you. You may have to pay for this private lawyer’s advice, or you may be eligible for Legal Aid.


Will my Community Law lawyer represent me in court?

If your legal problem is not solved before this stage, some Community Law Centres can represent you in tribunals or courts.

We only represent a very small number of people. Whether we can represent you will depend on whether you meet our eligibility criteria.


I don’t want to go to court. Is there an alternative?

Court can be a weird and disempowering experience. Sometimes it can be helpful to take a step “sideways” and try to find a different way to resolve your legal problem.

Before going to court, or instead of court, you may want to think about mediation. Mediation can be useful in many situations, including in relationships, work, community, commercial and ACC disputes – in fact any situation when two or more parties are unable to resolve a problem by themselves.

Some Community Law Centres offer mediation in-house, and others partnership with different agencies to provide mediation.

If both parties agree to mediation, a mediator will work with you both to try to reach agreement. A mediator doesn’t make the final decision – mediation continues until both parties agree.

Contact your local Community Law Centre to find out how they can connect you with a mediation service in your area.


I don’t want to go to jail! Is there an alternative?

Restorative Justice provides those affected by crime with a way to acknowledge the harm and start putting things right.

Community Law is well-connected with Restorative Justice programmes, in which victims and offenders meet in a safe and private environment, in an attempt to deal with the aftermath of an offence.

Some Community Law Centres are also involved with their local Community or Iwi Justice Panels, which focus on trying to keep people out of jail, by finding appropriate, community-based solutions to the harm caused by crime.

Contact your local Community Law Centre to find out more.

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