Getting legal assistance

Overview of the Referral Process

If we believe you are eligible for assistance through one of the PILCH referral schemes, you will be required to complete an application form.

If your matter is assessed as being within the guidelines of the scheme, PILCH will invite its members to take up your case. A letter of referral will be prepared for the solicitor or barrister who agrees to take up the matter, setting out the legal and factual issues. In assessing the matter and preparing the referral letter, we may need to interview you and conduct some preliminary legal research.

We may also, depending on the case, arrange an appointment between you and the solicitor or barrister who has agreed to take on your case. 

The arrangement between you and the solicitor or barrister will proceed as a normal lawyer/client relationship. This means that you become an ordinary client of the solicitor or barrister except that you are not paying the usual legal fees. PILCH will continue to monitor the progress of the service provided to you by the solicitor or barrister.

Confidentiality

All information in documents and discussions with PILCH will remain confidential. No detailed information is passed onto participating solicitors and barristers unless they have agreed to act for you and have conducted checks for a conflict of interest. PILCH may discuss your case generally in its newsletter or in press releases about the case but in a way that preserves your confidentiality. If you have any objection or concerns about this, please mention it to PILCH staff.

Assessment

The assessment of applications is the responsibility of the manager of the scheme to which you are applying.

When exercising their discretion to accept or reject an application for assistance, the manager of the scheme will apply the criteria set out above and consider the following factors:

  • whether assistance could appropriately be obtained elsewhere
  • whether the assistance of a solicitor and/or barrister is required
  • the resources of the scheme

Complaints

If you have a complaint about the service provided by the solicitor or barrister you are referred to you should contact the manager of the relevant scheme. If you remain unsatisfied with their response, please contact the PILCH Executive Director.

If you have a complaint about the service provided by PILCH staff you should contact the PILCH Executive Director. If you remain unsatisfied with their response, you can put your complaint in writing to the President, Public Interest Law Clearing House (Vic) Inc.

You can also make a complaint about the quality of service provided by any lawyer to the Legal Services Commissioner - - Web Link Icon www.lsc.vic.gov.au

Are there any charges?

The service provided by PILCH in assessing your application and matching your case with a solicitor or barrister is free of charge. However, some other fees may be payable.

Legal costs

PILCH refers cases to lawyers who agree to act on a pro bono basis (no charge). In some cases, the lawyer may reserve the right to charge you. Please discuss this with your lawyer so that you are clear about any liability for your legal costs and seek further information from PILCH if you have any concerns.

Disbursements

In most cases, you will be responsible for the disbursements that arise during your case. Disbursements are expenses other than your professional legal costs. These include filing fees for documents (required by courts and tribunals), court or tribunal daily sitting fees, interpreters' fees and transcript fees. In some cases, it is possible to obtain waivers of these fees from the courts or tribunals, but you will need to discuss this with your lawyer. Some lawyers will not charge clients for disbursements, but in general they are the client's responsibility to pay. Please ask your lawyer if you have any questions about this.

Content last updated: 26/09/08