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There are a lot of sources of information surrounding legal aid and the benefits it has in the legal system. However, universities often don't promote its importance within today's society.
It's a well-known fact that legal fees can reach unimaginable heights during the lifetime of a case. Often the looming costs of legal representation can discourage individuals from seeking representation within their legal matters.
This is where legal aid and legal help open a door for those who cannot financially facilitate the rising costs of gaining representation from a solicitor, barrister or legal expert. Aiding individuals to gain access to justice where it would previously have been perceived to be inaccessible.
But, what is legal aid?
Legal aid enables individuals to gain help towards the costs of legal advice, family mediation and representation within a court or tribunal. This service is aimed at individuals who have a serious issue that can be resolved in court and are unable to pay for legal costs to resolve this.
The serious issues that are eligible for legal aid are things such as a risk of homelessness, divorce or child arrangements in a domestically abusive relationship and needing advice due to a family member's death going to an inquest. However, if your human rights are at risk for an issue that would not usually qualify, then legal aid may still be available.
How do people get legal aid?
In order to gain legal aid, your eligibility will need to be assessed. This may include sending evidence of your income, and national insurance numbers and sending evidence of your outgoings as well as any relevant documentation. This'll show that your case is serious and that you're unable to pay your legal fees.
What if people cannot get legal aid? How do I help them?
There are other organisations that offer free advice to individuals such as Citizens Advice and Advicenow. Alternatively, advice can be paid for but this is often not a plausible option for many potential candidates for legal aid.
How can I contribute to helping people who need advice as a student?
The best way to contribute is to get involved in pro bono schemes or law clinics within your college or university and volunteer for organisations such as Citizens Advice and Support Through Court. This, in turn, will allow you to gain first-hand experience with clients before you embark on your legal career.
There's more on finding the right pro bono scheme for you as an aspiring lawyer in this LCN Says.