Legal aid is a fraught area which has seen many changes in the last decade. We probably do more legal aid work than any other firm in Nelson and in a variety of areas. We are quite knowledgeable
about what is required to qualify for legal aid, where exceptions may be made eg financial eligibility or for persons who otherwise may not qualify for legal aid. We are also used to accessing
legal aid resources to obtain the best outcomes for our client.
There are many petty bureaucratic rules which have burnt off a number of other lawyers, even before the comparatively low rates did, but we have tried to stay one step ahead of the changing legal aid environment so that we may still offer competitive service with resources available for our clients that will allow them to come close to matching the resources of those with large pockets or corporations, particularly in the civil arena.
It is not a totally level playing field for those on legal aid, for a number of reasons, but we aim to ensure access to justice to the best of our ability. We don’t wish to offer a second class service because you are on legal aid.
Unfortunately, in the criminal arena, unless your offence is serious, you can’t choose us to be your lawyers on legal aid. You’ve got a 1 in 13 chance of any particular Nelson lawyer, such as Steven Zindel or Wayne Jones, if you do fill in a legal aid form. If that is not good enough for you and you want to choose your lawyer, then we are prepared to work on private rates at the same hourly rate as our legal aid hourly rate but if you qualify for legal aid, then it would probably be in your best interests to carry on with that. If you really want to have us, then, because you may be unable to afford our hourly rates, we would need to have some security for our costs such as money in our trust account, perhaps from friends or family (much as we don’t like the idea of a client having to borrow just to have the lawyer of their choice). If that is what you decide to do, then we hope that the investment will be worthwhile because we try hard to achieve the best outcome for our clients.