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Getting legal assistance

Attorneys are legal professionals who have the relevant knowledge and skills to provide legal advice. When consulting an attorney, the attorney will listen to the prospective client, explain his/her reasonable fee structure in simple and understandable terms and give an indication of how he/she expects the matter to proceed once the client has appointed the attorney.

If you cannot afford the services of an attorney there are various options:

  • Legal Aid South Africa
  • Pro bono (free) legal services by attorneys
  • The First Interview Scheme: First free interview with an attorney

Legal Aid South Africa

Legal Aid South Africa derives its mandate from s 35 of the Constitution. In terms of this section, every person who is arrested, detained or accused has a right to a fair trial, which includes the right to have a legal practitioner assigned by the State and at State expense. Legal Aid South Africa’s role is to provide legal aid to those who cannot afford their own legal representation. This includes poor people and vulnerable groups such as women, children and the rural poor. Legal Aid SA applies a ‘means test’ to see whether you qualify in terms of what you earn. For example, employed individuals must earn less than R5 500 per month after tax has been taken off to qualify for legal aid.

  • Click here to access the Legal Aid South Africa website.
  • Click here to view whether you qualify for legal aid from Legal Aid South Africa.

Pro bono (free) legal services by attorneys

Pro bono is administered by the Legal Practice Council where attorneys are registered.

How do you qualify for a pro bono (free) attorney?

To qualify for free legal assistance, a person must comply with a ‘means test’ (a maximum monthly or no income) and have a legal problem with merit.
You will be referred to an attorney by the law society who will assist you free of charge (pro bono).

If a referral is made to a pro bono attorney, the client is responsible only for the cost of disbursements (actual expenses), such as Sheriffs’ fees, and the attorney will not charge any fees for the work and legal services provided.

Where do I find a pro bono attorney?

Contact the regional office of the Legal Practice Council:

Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West
ProcForum Building, 123 Paul Kruger Street, Pretoria
Telephone: (012) 338 5800; email: directorgp@lpc.org.za

Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Western Cape
29th Floor,ABSA Centre, 2 Riebeek Street, Cape Town;
Telephone: (021) 443 6700;  e-mail: cls@capelawsoc.law.za

200 Hoosen Haffejee Str, Pietermaritzburg
Telephone: (033) 345 1304; e-mail: pearl@lawsoc.co.za

Free State
139 Zastron Street, Bloemfontein
Telephone: (051) 447 3237; e-mail: director@fs-law.co.za

Other organisations offering pro bono services:

ProBono.org: www.probono.org.za

South African Society for Labour Law (SASLAW): For labour law matters:  www.saslaw.org.za/index.php/pro-bono

Services on a contingency fee basis by attorneys

Many attorneys are prepared to undertake civil litigation (such as personal injury and motor vehicle accident claims) on a contingency (no-win-no-fee) basis for persons who may not qualify for pro bono assistance. This is subject to the provisions of the Contingency Fees Act. Ask your attorney whether he/she works on a contingency basis.