What is Legal Advice?
Legal advice is any advice which can help you to understand the law in the jurisdiction that you are in. You should not seek advice outside of your jurisdiction, because the laws and legal systems are different. Be aware that the legal system in Scotland is different to the system in England and Wales.
Legal Advice which is given is based on a professional opinion, rather than a personal or subjective one. You can use this advice to help you to make an informed decision about your circumstances. You do not have to follow legal advice that you have been given, although this could affect your legal position.
Who can give free legal advice?
In the United Kingdom, legal advice can be given by a range of different people, depending on what advice is required. In criminal law cases, advice is normally given by a solicitor or barrister who has completed formal legal training. In civil cases, a wider range of people may be able to provide you with valid legal advice. This includes; claims advisors, the Citizens’ Advice Bureau and free legal advice from Legal Expert subject matter experts, charity associates, professional advisers and more. These people can help to give you basic advice so that you understand how to progress with a case. In some circumstances, these people may point you towards a qualified solicitor, if they feel as though you would benefit more from speaking to someone with a legal qualification.
Where can Free Legal Advice be Obtained
If you are in need of free legal advice, there are a few different outlets that you can consider. The people who you approach for this advice may vary, depending on your current legal situation. One of the primary sources of free legal advice in the United Kingdom is Citizens’ Advice (formerly the Citizens’ Advice Bureau). This organisation exists to protect the individual rights of citizens in various different fields. If they cannot help in a particular area, they are often very good at signposting clients to organisations which may be able to offer help instead.
Fields which Citizens’ Advice covers include; landlord-tenant disputes, immigration, housing, asylum, employment issues, welfare benefits, debt management and will writing. Some solicitors actually work with Citizens’ Advice to offer free legal advice to vulnerable people.
You may also be able to access free legal advice from solicitors and claims advisors. Many solicitors offer free claims advice on a “no win, no fee” basis. In the first instance, they will offer legal advice about the claim without charging anything and without requesting that the potential client signs a contract. If they decide that a valid claim exists which is worth pursuing, then they may ask the client to sign an agreement which sets out what will happen if the claim continues, including what will be paid to the solicitor if the claim is successful.
If you have a concern about a specific area of the law (such as housing rights) you may want to get in contact with a specialist charity. Charities, such as Shelter, may be able to provide you with basic legal advice to help to point you in the right direction.
It may also be possible to get free legal advice on other areas of the law, so long as you meet certain eligibility criteria. This advice is provided under the Legal Aid scheme, which is designed to allow vulnerable members of society to get legal representation even if they cannot afford it.
It is worth noting that solicitors do not have to give legal advice for free. Many will charge a reduced fee for their initial consultation, but this rate could increase once the solicitor agrees to take on your case. Make sure that you understand all of the charges before committing to using a legal service.
In 1949, the Legal Aid and Advice Act was passed to offer legal aid and advice to people who may not be able to get advice normally. However, the extent of the Legal Aid act has been curbed slightly in recent years, meaning that it is not available to as many people as it once was. It is normally available in Criminal Law cases, although there is reduced availability in civil cases. If you have been charged with a criminal offence and you do not have access to a solicitor, you should ask to see a legal aid solicitor as soon as possible.
If you are involved in a civil case, you can use the Checklegalaid website to find out whether you might be eligible. This website can also help you to find qualified Legal Aid providers in your area if you are eligible. However, this website will not be able to give you a final decision, so it is best to talk to a solicitor before assuming that you can definitely access legal aid.