We act on money and property claims, including with a human rights dimension.
There are few practising civil legal aid providers in the country and so we receive referrals from far and wide, especially with Cinderella topics like employment, tenancy, immigration and ACC.
If you are served with civil court proceedings then we encourage you to get in contact with us as soon as possible. You may find the documents difficult to interpret and there are strict deadlines for filing responses. If you are applying for legal aid then it can take some time, if you are eligible, for a full legal aid grant (i.e. where we can file documents as your lawyer and represent you in court) to come through.
To qualify for legal aid, there is a $50 initial contribution and financial eligibility information should be provided at the first interview – with verification of income, expenses, assets and liabilities. If there is a trust, a copy of the trust deed and any gifting arrangements should also be supplied.
Legal aid is quite exacting about our establishing prospects of success so we need to draft a fairly detailed statement early on and there may be legal research to ensure there is a tenable basis to proceed. Sometimes we ask for an interim grant of 5-10 hours’ work to carry out this initial work. If there doesn’t end up being a tenable basis to proceed then you may need to repay legal aid for this but it’s more affordable than instructing a lawyer privately to get the same result.
A claim is begun by a formal statement of claim, there are some intermediate or “interlocutory” steps, including the provision of further discovery of documents, and then many cases are resolved by Judicial Settlement Conference. A small percentage proceed to trial and then costs may be quite high to present a case to the necessary standard. There may also be high costs of the other side if you lose, unless you are generally protected from these by being on legal aid. For that reason, you have to be careful about carrying on a civil case unless you have a good foundation and all reliable witnesses are scrambled for the cause.
We also do appeals and different skills are involved here – these are more pointed and short – but they can also be time consuming and intricate to prepare properly. We’ll tell you if there are realistic chances for an appeal succeeding and legal aid is available for these too.