Pro Bono Clearing House - FAQs Print E-mail

Do you have a legal issue but can't afford professional legal fees?

Does your legal need fall outside established guidelines for legal assistance, like Legal Aid?  The Law Society, the Northern Territory legal profession and Community Legal Centres understand that this can happen, so have established the ‘Northern Territory Pro Bono Clearing House' 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 Clearing House 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 Clearing House.

What does the Clearing House do?

The Clearing House will examine all applications for pro bono legal assistance. Applications that meet the Clearing House's eligibility criteria will be referred to the Pro Bono Panel.

If a lawyer accepts a matter through this process, he or she 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 Pro Bono Clearing House 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 Clearing House accept?

The Clearing House 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 Clearing House 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 Clearing House 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 Clearing House referral, it is up to you and that lawyer to come to an arrangement about the expenses you will have to pay. The Clearing House encourages lawyers accepting referrals to strictly limit any charges passed on to the client.

Is my application private and confidential?

The Law Society and the Clearing House 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 Law Society and the Clearing House to provide your records to a third party. The Law Society and the Clearing House may discuss your application with one or more lawyers when attempting to obtain legal assistance for you.

The Law Society will keep your application form until it is either referred to a lawyer or returned to you. The Law Society will then keep a brief record of your application.

How do I apply?

Application forms for pro bono legal assistance are as follows:

Pro Bono Clearinghouse application form for individuals

Pro Bono Clearinghouse application form for organisations

The Clearing House can be contacted at the Law Society Northern Territory on (08) 8981 5104. If you need assistance filling out your application form, you should speak to the Clearing House Co-ordinator.

Completed application forms should be hand-delivered to the Law Society's office or mailed to:

NT 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 NT Pro Bono Clearing House thanks the ACT Pro Bono Clearing House, who kindly gave us permission to adapt it for our own use.

Page last updated
28 July 2014

Office Location:
Level 3, 9 Cavenagh Street
Darwin NT 0800 View map

Mailing Address:
GPO Box 2388
Darwin NT 0801

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Phone: 08 8981 5104
Fax: 08 8941 1623

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