Help with your case
The best source of legal help depends on the nature of the case. For criminal matters always contact a solicitor. For civil matters
you may be able to get help from an advice agency as well as a solicitor.
This section looks at the help available if you are planning on going to court - from solicitors and barristers to advice agencies.
Solicitors give legal advice in many types of cases. It can be difficult to find a solicitor specialising in your problem who can provide legal aid.
If your case is complex, go to an advice agency or Citizens Advice Bureau who can refer you to the Law Centre NI.
You can't contact a barrister directly for advice. Your solicitor asks a barrister for detailed legal advice or to represent you in court. Getting a barrister increases the costs. Legal aid can cover a barrister's fees.
Northern Ireland Pro Bono Unit
The Northern Ireland Pro Bono Unit at the Bar Library provides free legal advice and representation in deserving cases where legal aid isn't available and you can't afford to pay a solicitor or barrister. Your adviser or solicitor should contact the Pro Bono Unit for you. You are more likely to be taken on by the unit if your case is complex.
Law Centre NI
The Law Centre NI employs legal advisers specialising in complex areas of law. It is a referral organisation and doesn't offer an advice service directly to the public.
You should contact an independent advice centre or Citizens Advice Bureau for initial advice. Cases will be referred to the Law Centre NI if it is appropriate.
Housing Rights Service
Housing Rights Service provides free and detailed advice on housing issues. Housing Rights Service takes on cases but this depends on the nature of the case and available resources.
Contact Housing Rights Service on 028 9024 5640 between 9.30 am and 1.30 pm Monday to Friday.
Citizens Advice Bureaux
Your local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) gives free initial advice in most areas. Some CAB offices give detailed advice and can prepare your case for court. Some CAB offices can go to court with you as a McKenzie friend or represent you at a tribunal.
If you don't have a solicitor or barrister you may be allowed to be accompanied by a McKenzie friend. This is an assistant or friend who helps you during the case. A McKenzie friend is very useful if you have not been in court before.
A McKenzie friend can be anyone, from an advice worker to a friend. You should tell the clerk at the start of the trial that you are not represented by a solicitor, and would like to have an assistant to help you with taking notes and occasional advice.
A McKenzie friend can:
- take notes,
- give advice,
- make suggestions when you are cross examining a witness or making a statement.
A McKenzie friend is only allowed to address the court in exceptional circumstances and with the court's permission.
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