Do you have a legal issue but can't afford professional legal fees?
Do your legal needs fall outside established guidelines for legal assistance, like Legal Aid? The Society, the NT legal profession and Community Legal Centres understand that this can happen - so they have established the PBCH to help.
What is 'pro bono' work?
'Pro bono' means 'for the public good'. Lawyers doing pro bono work usually do not charge for their time, or charge substantially below their professional fees. They may charge for other expenses, depending on the type of matter, a person's circumstances and the lawyer's pro bono policy.
Who may apply?
Members of the public may apply directly to the PBCH for assistance. Community Legal Centres, members of the legal profession, politicians and public agencies can also refer people who need provide pro bono legal assistance to the PBCH.
What does the PBCH do?
The PBCH will examine all applications for pro bono legal assistance. Applications that meet the PBCH's eligibility criteria will be referred to the Pro Bono Panel.
If a lawyer accepts a matter through this process, they will contact the applicant directly and arrange to take the matter on. Before commencing any work on the matter, he or she will also discuss what expenses (if any) the applicant is likely to incur.
The PBCH does not grant assistance to applicants but merely acts as an intermediary between the public and the legal profession.
What sort of legal issues will the PBCH accept?
The PBCH will assist applicants in respect of two types of matters:
- public interest' law matters that affect a significant number of people or that raise a matter of broad public concern; and
- private interest' law matters that have reasonable prospects of success.
The PBCH will not deal with a matter if it is thought that the assistance should be provided by the Legal Aid Office, and may discuss your application with that Office. Find out more about Legal Aid by telephoning toll free 1800 019 343.
Am I eligible for assistance?
You may be eligible for assistance from the PBCH if you are a not-for-profit organisation or community group whose purpose is primarily charitable and you can demonstrate an appropriate financial need.
You may also be eligible for assistance if you are likely to suffer a serious injustice without legal representation, you are not eligible for a grant of Legal Aid and you are of insufficient means to afford legal services at professional charging rates.
Unfortunately, assistance may not be available even if you are eligible. This can happen if lawyers are busy or timeframes tight. An information sheet Am I eligible for Pro Bono? is available for you to download.
What will it cost?
A pro bono lawyer may charge his or her client for some expenses, or substantially reduced fees. If your matter is accepted by a lawyer from a PBCH referral, it is up to you and that lawyer to come to an arrangement about the expenses you will have to pay. The PBCH encourages lawyers accepting referrals to strictly limit any charges passed on to the client.
Is my application private and confidential?
The Society and the PBCH will treat all information that you provide as confidential. Applicants should be aware that a Freedom of Information request or court order may compel the Society and the PBCH to provide your records to a third party. The Society and the PBCH may discuss your application with one or more lawyers when attempting to obtain legal assistance for you.
The Society will keep your application form until it is either referred to a lawyer or returned to you. The Society will then keep a brief record of your application.
How do I apply?
Application forms for pro bono legal assistance are as follows:
PBCH application form for individuals
PBCH application form for organisations
The PBCH can be contacted at the Society on (08) 8981 5104. If you need assistance filling out your application form, you should speak to the PBCH Coordinator.
Completed application forms should be hand-delivered to the Society's office or mailed to:
Pro Bono Clearing House
C/- The Law Society Northern Territory
GPO Box 2388
Darwin NT 0801
This information is based on a brochure produced by the ACT Pro Bono Clearing House. The PBCH thanks the ACT Pro Bono Clearing House, who kindly gave us permission to adapt it for our own use.