Getting a Legal Referral
The Referral Service takes inquires over the phone on 8636 4400. We will use telephone interpreters where it is appropriate to do so. We only make in-person appointments for people with special accessibility needs.
We will typically let you know if your matter would be eligible for referral within 48 hours. If we believe it would be eligible, we will ask you to complete an Application Form, in which you will be asked to provide further personal and financial information and information about the case. You will also be asked to sign an authority and consent for us to assist you,
After we receive your Application Form we will make a final assessment. If eligible, we will inform you by telephone and we will contact lawyers who practise in the area of law in which you require assistance. We can never guarantee that we can refer your matter to a lawyer. If a lawyer accepts the referral, we will inform you in writing. It is then up to you and the lawyer to make contact. The lawyer will explain the extent to which he or she is able to assist you.
What are the eligibility criteria?
When assessing a request for pro bono assistance, PILCH applies a combination of the following eligibility criteria:
- Whether the applicant has exhausted all other avenues of legal assistance. For example, the Referral Service cannot assist where:
- an applicant can afford a lawyer;
- an applicant is eligible for a grant of assistance from Victoria Legal Aid; or
- more appropriate assistance is available from another service provider, for example, a Community Legal Centre or a no-win-no-fee firm.
- The complexity and nature of the legal matter, including whether the issue is a family, criminal or civil law matter;
- Access to justice considerations (for example, vulnerability, disadvantage, oppression or discrimination);
- Legal merit (the prospects of success), and the utility (cost-benefit) of the matter;
- Whether the applicant or the legal issue are in Victoria;
- The disposition (behaviour) of the applicant;
- The pro bono capacity of the lawyers who participate in the programs we administer; and
- Our own resources.
We also apply the following discretionary considerations:
- Whether the matter raises public interest criteria (for example, the proceedings will determine an important right affecting a significant sector of the community, or advance the rule of law); and
- The administration of justice.
What if my application is unsuccessful?
If your request for assistance is unsuccessful, or if we are unable to refer your matter:
- We will notify you and may suggest other services which may be able to assist you.
- we are not required to provide you with reasons for our assessment; and
- you should consider obtaining legal advice as soon as possible, as there may be a limit on the time available to you to exercise your legal rights or to defend a claim against you.
Are there any charges for Referral Services?
There is no charge for applying to the Referral Service for legal assistance. If successful, we will refer your matter to a lawyer on a pro bono basis.
You may be asked to contribute to disbursements. Disbursements are out of pocket expenses such as court and tribunal fees or interpreters' fees. Your pro bono lawyer should consult you before incurring any disbursements for which you are responsible.
If your matter involves legal proceedings and you are unsuccessful in the proceeding, a Court may order that you pay the other party's legal costs. These costs are your responsibility and are never covered by Referral Service or pro bono lawyer. Please discuss this with your lawyer so that you are clear about any liability for costs.
In some cases your lawyer may reserve the right to charge you fees in certain circumstances. This can only occur by agreement between you and your lawyer. The agreement should be in writing and signed by both you and the lawyer. The most common types of fee agreements are:
- no fee, regardless of the outcome of the case;
- reduced fee; or
- conditional, where you pay the lawyer an agreed fee if you are successful and the other party is ordered by a court or tribunal or agrees to pay your legal costs.
Is my information confidential?
You may need to provide confidential information to the Referral Service when making an application for legal assistance. The Referral Service will take all reasonable steps to avoid disclosure of your confidential information without your consent.
We may need to share your confidential information with lawyers, courts or other service providers for the purposes of assessing, referring or monitoring your matter.
We may use your de-identified information to assist in our reporting, evaluation, advocacy, legal training and research. As part of that work we may use information about your matter for a 'case study'. You will need to tell us if you don't want us to use your confidential information in this way.
PILCH may have a legal conflict of interest, relationship conflict or other legal or ethical reason which means the Referral Service is unable to assist you. Examples of these conflicts include:
- PILCH has acted, or is acting, for another party to the dispute;
- A PILCH staff member has a personal interest in the matter or has acted for another party to the dispute; or
- The matter affects a PILCH professional relationship.
If we are unable to assist you because of a conflict, we might be prevented from providing an explanation of the conflict.
In some cases, the Referral Service will be able to consider, accept or reject applications from two parties, even if they are acting against each other or their interests are not aligned. In that case, we will not disclose any information we obtain from either party to the other, because of confidentiality.
The Referral Service may have to reject an application by another person relating to your matter because of conflicts. Unless you object, PILCH may explain to the other person that the reason for the rejection is that we are or already have assisted you and that we have a conflict of interest.