Where to get legal help
A range of free and low cost services are available to help you with legal questions and problems. This page provides links to information, resources and services which may be of benefit to you.
Is my lawyer entitled to practice law?
Only a registered ‘Australian Legal Practitioner’ is entitled to provide you with legal advice. All legal practitioners giving advice to a private client, even if it is free advice, MUST have a current practising certificate for that purpose. You can search the Legal Service Board’s Register of Legal Practitioners and Law Practices to check if a lawyer has a current practising certificate.
Compensation for lost money or property
The Legal Services Board maintains the Legal Practitioner’s Fidelity Fund; a statutory compensation scheme for clients who have lost trust money or trust property as a result of dishonest or fraudulent behaviour of a lawyer, law clerk, barrister’s clerk or law practice. The Fidelity Fund does not cover money lost which was not held in trust, such as money used for investment purposes.
Regulation of conveyancers
For information about the regulation of conveyancers, including where to go to make a complaint about a conveyancing matter, visit the Lawyers and conveyancing page.
Information from other websites
Accurate and trustworthy legal information on a wide range of topics is freely available from several Victorian online sources.
Getting legal help
If you do not know whether you need to see a lawyer about a problem you have, you can contact a local community legal service to ask them for advice. You can find the contact details for your closest service at the Federation of Community Legal Services website.
Finding a lawyer
If you are looking for a lawyer you can find one in many different ways:
- A recommendation from someone you know
- A listing in the phone book
- A search over the internet
- A local firm in your area.
The Law Institute of Victoria also provides a free legal referral service. You can visit their website or call the Institute on Tel: 03 9607 9311 to obtain a list of lawyers in your local area that deal with different areas of law.
The Law Handbook
The Law Handbook, published by the Fitzroy Legal Service, contains legal information covering many of the common issues which people seek legal advice about, including family law, neighbourhood disputes, contracts, bankruptcy and wills. The Law Handbook has been available as a free online resource since 2009.
Victoria Law Foundation
The Victoria Law Foundation also produces a large number of free plain English guides to the law, covering matters such as parking laws, responsible pet ownership and dispute resolution. These guides are available from the Victoria Law Foundation website.
The Foundation has also set up a web portal to link users to plain language information on legal topics produced by Victorian government agencies. The can be accessed at the Everyday-Law portal.
Glossary of legal terms
A common concern we hear from the public involves the use of technical legal jargon by lawyers. Many clients simply do not understand the terminology lawyers use, and so not understand how their matter is being handled or what they need to do.
Legal terms have very specific meanings which are not always easy to translate into plain language. To help address this we remind lawyers of the importance of clear communication with clients. We also promote to consumers their rights when dealing with lawyers, including the right to ask questions of their lawyer and to ask for an explanation using plain language.
The Fitzroy Legal Service has compiled a comprehensive glossary of legal terms for the Law Handbook.
What to do when a problem arises
Usually the best thing you can do is to speak to your lawyer first to attempt to resolve the problem. It may be a misunderstanding or miscommunication that can be resolved once the lawyer understands why you are not happy. However if the problem cannot be resolved or you feel you cannot speak to your lawyer, you should raise your concerns with the lawyer’s managing partner.
You are also entitled to change to another lawyer if you feel you cannot work with your lawyer any longer; however your current lawyer can retain your file until his/her costs are paid.
For further information about dealing with a problem you may have with your lawyer, see the What to do when a problem arises page.