Legal Aid and other legal help


There are different government-funded schemes that provide you with advice from a lawyer when you can’t afford to hire one yourself.

The main scheme is called “Legal Aid” – the government pays the fees of private lawyers to represent people who can’t afford to pay a lawyer themselves, or, sometimes in criminal cases, provides government lawyers who work for the Public Defence Service.

Legal Aid is usually provided as a loan, but in some cases you may not have to pay it back.

In criminal cases there are also two other schemes that provide you with free legal help early on, before you’re assigned a Legal Aid lawyer:

  • if you’ve been arrested you can talk to a lawyer for free over the phone – this is the PDLA (Police Detention Legal Assistance) scheme
  • and on your first day in court for your case a free “Duty Lawyer” can advise and represent you, including helping you decide whether to plead guilty or not guilty and helping you apply for bail.

For non-criminal cases, there is also a family/civil Legal Aid scheme – like a dispute with your ex-partner in the Family Court about care arrangements for your children, or an employment or ACC dispute. This chapter explains about how to apply for this type of Legal Aid, how it’s decided whether you’ll get it, whether you’ll have to pay any of it back, and what you can do if you’re refused Legal Aid.

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Legal Aid and other legal help

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can give you free initial legal advice, help you apply for Legal Aid and find a Legal Aid lawyer, and may be able to provide ongoing legal help, depending on your situation.

Find a family lawyer

This New Zealand Law Society website will help you find a family lawyer in your local area.

Find a Legal Aid lawyer

This is an online database of Legal Aid lawyers.

Public Defence Service

This website provides information about the Public Defence Service. They can represent defendants in criminal cases where Legal Aid has been granted.

Ministry of Justice

Information about Legal Aid and other legal assistance schemes. Legal Aid forms are also available online.

Applying for Legal Aid

This page has the Legal Aid forms in PDR versions that you can download and email to Legal Aid.

Phone: 0800 253 425

Legal Aid Tribunal

Information about the Legal Aid Tribunal including what types of decisions that can be reviewed, how to apply and what type of information you need to provide.

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