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Getting legal help

There are times when it’s important to get legal help if you can – like when you’re separating or in danger of losing your home, or if you or your child are at risk. 

This might feel like a big step, but a qualified and insured legal expert can help make sure you’re not taken advantage of. They can help you use the legal system to make sure you get the best arrangements for you and your children. 

We’re not trained to give legal advice, but we can point you towards organisations that can help you with your specific situation. This includes places where you can get free or low-cost advice to help you understand how things work and make good decisions. 

How to get legal support

Help with legal costs

Representing yourself

Useful links

How to get legal support

Using a solicitor

A solicitor can give you legal advice and help you understand your rights. They can help you find a solution to your problem and, if necessary, can represent you in court. It’s important to find a solicitor who’s experienced in the type of law you need help with. For example, if you’re separating from your partner, you may need a family law solicitor.

What to expect when using a solicitor is a very useful guide by the Law Society. This explains how to choose a solicitor, what questions to ask and how to prepare for your first meeting.

Employers, trade unions and insurance policies

If your employer has an employee assistance programme, you might be able to get free legal advice through this. Likewise, if you’re in a trade union, they may be able to give you legal advice. These services sometimes offer help with legal fees or legal helpline. It’s also a good idea to check your insurance policies (like car or household insurance) in case they include free legal advice.

Help with legal costs

Legal fees can add up very quickly. But there are ways you might be able to keep costs as low as possible, or get free legal support.  

Legal aid

If your case is serious and you can’t afford a solicitor, you may be able to get legal aid to help pay for legal advice. You can only get this in certain circumstances – for example, if you or your children are at risk of abuse or homelessness, or if you need family mediation. You can check if you can get legal aid on gov.uk. If you qualify, you’ll also need to find a solicitor who accepts legal aid.

If you can’t get legal aid

If you’re not eligible for legal aid, you might be able to get free legal support from:

  • LawWorks – free legal advice clinics where you can get basic advice on your next steps
  • Advocate – free legal advice and representation from volunteer barristers
  • Child Law Advice – free specialist legal advice and information on child, family and education law for parents, carers and young people in England
  • Law Centres – a network of centres offering face-to-face legal advice, some also have a phone advice line

Getting cheaper or low-cost legal advice

Some solicitors will agree to give you a free 30-minute appointment. Or you might be able to get a fixed-fee appointment, where you agree the cost in advance. This can be a good way to find out whether you have a case worth defending or taking to court.

You might be able to find a solicitor who offers a ‘no win, no fee’ agreement – also called a conditional fee arrangement. If you win, their fees come out of your compensation. If you lose, you won’t pay their fee but may have some expenses to cover. Always ask your solicitor to explain exactly what you might have to pay. 

Your nearest Citizens Advice might have a list of solicitors offering no win, no fee or free or fixed-fee advice.

Representing yourself in court

As it’s becoming harder to get help with legal costs, more and more people are completing their own court forms or even going to court without the help of a solicitor. This will no doubt feel daunting if you find yourself in this position, but there are organisations that can help you. 

  • Advicenow has guides to help you go to court without a solicitor – including a video guide. They also have solicitors who can help you through the most complicated bits of child arrangements or financial cases for a fixed or reduced fee.
  • Support Through Court has a free, court-based support service and a national helpline on 03000 810 006 (Monday to Friday 10.30-3.30). They can explain how court works and help you fill in forms and plan what you’re going to say in court. 

Taking someone with you to court

If you’re representing yourself, you can bring along someone to support you in court. This is known as a McKenzie friend. They could be an actual friend, or someone who has been through a similar situation. They could also a be volunteer from Support Through Court.

A McKenzie friend can even be a solicitor or barrister who is helping you. There are professional McKenzie friends, but make sure you find someone who comes recommended if you go down this road. Ideally, you want someone with legal training and indemnity insurance, in case things go wrong.

Rights of Women has more information on using a McKenzie friend.

Date last updated: 24 April 2024

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