We give one-on-one legal help to people who don’t have much money. We’ll ask you some questions about your financial situation. If you’re a student, a beneficiary, unemployed or on a low income, it’s likely that we can give you initial one-on-one legal help.
We help people facing particular kinds of serious legal issues, such as Child, Youth and Family or Work and Income matters, debt or credit problems, or criminal charges.
We also help people who are vulnerable in other ways, for example if you have trouble reading, if you’re homeless, transient or in a crisis living situation, if you come from a refugee background, if you’re adversely affected by disability, mobility issues or mental illness, or if you’re experiencing violence.
Community Law can help with all kinds of legal problems, including:
This means, most Community Law Centres:
Many Community Law Centres:
There may be another reason we have to refer you to other help, for example, if the Community Law Centre has a conflict of interest.
If your local Community Law Centre has already helped the other “party” (person) to your dispute, they may not be able to see you. They’ll help you contact a different Community Law Centre in your region, or help you to find a different lawyer.
Legal Aid is a scheme run by the Ministry of Justice. It’s government funding to pay for lawyers for people going to court who cannot afford a lawyer. Legal Aid 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 Waitangi Tribunal proceedings.
Community Law Centres, on the other hand, are independent charities. Although we receive much of our funding through government sources, we are not connected in any way to the public service.
Importantly, our services are free, whereas people often have to repay some or all of their Legal Aid back to the government. Find out more about Legal Aid in the Community Law Manual.
If you need a lawyer and can’t afford one, you can come to us for initial free legal help first. We can then refer you to the right Legal Aid lawyer. Some of our Community Law Centres are now providing some Legal Aid services in some areas of law. You need to contact your local Community Law Centre to find out if they can assist you with a legal problem under Legal Aid.
We only do this if we have enough resources, and usually reserve it for serious issues, such as when a person is experiencing:
We can also make exceptions where people have a legitimate reason for high living costs, such as a person with a disability.
If you need a lawyer, be aware that they specialise in different areas of law. Some lawyers will charge for an initial meeting so ask about their charges first.
You can also find a lawyer near you using the “Find a Lawyer” search tool on the New Zealand Law Society website.
If you search our Resources, you might also find the answer to your question, not to mention links to many useful resources, websites and organisations.
Check out Frequently Asked Questions and Answers related to COVID-19 on our website here.
Community Law Centres across Aotearoa are operating remotely. Please contact them via the phone number or email displayed on the Centre’s page.
Find the contact details of your nearest Community Law Centre here.