What to expect from your legal aid lawyer

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Legal aid lawyers must meet certain standards for the conduct of their work and the ways they relate to you and other people in the justice system.

Standards of service

All lawyers have to meet standards of professional behaviour set out in legislation. Legal aid lawyers must also comply with the Ministry of Justice practice standards.

Under these rules, you can expect that your lawyer will protect and promote your interests, keep you informed, give you clear information and advice, protect your privacy and treat you fairly and respectfully.

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Lawyer fees

Legal aid is paid directly to your lawyer.

Your legal aid lawyer will not charge you for legal aid work completed. The user charge fee for some family and civil cases is the only payment that your lawyer can receive directly from you. If your lawyer tries to charge you for any other legal aid services, tell your local legal aid office.

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Contacting your lawyer

Whether you are dealing with criminal charges, a family issue or a civil dispute, the legal system can be stressful. Your lawyer will understand this. While they want to help you, you may not be able to speak to them at all times.

If you want to talk to your lawyer, think about the following:

Is your lawyer in court, mediation or meetings?

Your lawyer will give you their full attention while representing you. They will, however, need to do the same for their other clients.

How long ago did you speak with or receive any information from your lawyer?

If you lawyer has several messages, emails or letters from you, they may need some time to respond to all of these.

Has your lawyer told you to expect an update before today?

If your lawyer has told you that they will contact you before today but hasn’t, you should call their office to speak with them. If they cannot talk, their support staff may be able to give you a reason why your lawyer has not been in contact or pass on a message.

Is your call urgent?

Although you need to keep your lawyer fully informed, not all information is urgent. Lawyers need to prioritise their work so that all of their clients get the best advice. Your lawyer may be busy doing other, more urgent work on your case or another client’s case and may not be able to respond straight away. When your lawyer asks for some information, it may be useful to ask them when they need it, and if it is urgent.

If you have any concerns about how often you receive replies or updates, raise your concern the next time you speak with your lawyer.

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Useful tips

  • You may find it helpful to ask for things in writing, or to write down any information your lawyer gives you to help remind you what your lawyer will do next, or what your lawyer may need from you.
  • You may also find it useful to talk to your lawyer about how they will be running your case, and what information will be useful to them.

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