How to find a lawyer
(for information only, individuals must seek legal advice for their own cases)
A list of legal aid providers is available on the Legal Services website – see link below.
There is a great shortage of good legal aid firms. Local law centres and Citizens Advice Bureaux are the best place to start looking.
What to do if you can’t find a lawyer
- Make a list of all the legal firms you contact, and the time and date when you contacted them, and what they told you.
- Number your list.
- Contact the Legal Services Commission and ask them what you are meant to do if you cannot find a legal representative.
- Tell them how many firms you have contacted.
- Contact your local MP and ask for help.
- Keep ZA informed.
A good lawyer will help you make the best of your case
Merits Test: Solicitors must justify getting paid Legal Aid. They must judge beforehand whether a claim has a more than 50% chance of succeeding. If he/she judges the claim to have less than 50% chance, he/she declares it ‘without merit’.
Such a judgment is subjective; another lawyer may view the claim differently.
The solicitor must give you a written reason for ‘dropping your case’ for lack of merit. If he/she says the LSC/Legal Services Commission has refused, you can ask them to appeal that refusal.
What is ‘a bad solicitor’?
A BAD solicitor will or might :
- Persuade you or push you to change your story, embroider it, offer to change it.
- Take money from you or relatives for representation without telling you you have a right to free representation on Legal Aid.
- Fail to inform you of court dates, decisions, send you copies of letters sent on your behalf to the authorities (called ‘making representations’).
- Fail to interview you, make a statement, ask you to agree it as correct, send it to court.
- Fail to submit evidence you provided, or help find evidence about your country to support your story.
- Not have a barrister in court with you when you agreed s/he would send one.
- ‘Drop you’; telling you a few days before hearing they will not come to court with you.
- Fail to appear, when they said they would.
- If detained, not visit you to ‘take instructions’ from you.
If one, several, or all of these things happen to you, ask how to complain to the Office of Immigration Services Commissioner, the OISC.
What is ‘a good solicitor’?
Here are some signs of a GOOD solicitor:
- S/he will meet with you well before the date of hearing for at least one thorough interview, to prepare you for tough questioning, to correct errors and omissions in your story, and to rehearse it with you, until you are both confident you each know it.
- S/he will send you the written statement based on this discussion, and ask you if it is correct, then ask you to sign it.
- S/he will clearly explain procedure, your role, and his/her role.
- S/he will write to you in good time about actions to take, progress of your case, hearing dates.
- S/he will use good interpreters, and pay attention to your comments about it.
- S/he will not pressure you to change your story towards untruth to ‘help’ you