What to do and how to do it

How to get help if you are representing yourself in a court or tribunal

If you are representing yourself in court or at a tribunal (often called a Litigant in Person), or thinking of it, there may be free help and advice you can get at different stages of your case. Here we explain what each service can help you with and how you can access them.
How to get help if you are representing yourself in court or tribunal

What kind of help do you need?

Logo for the Litigant in Person Support Strategy

There are different kinds of organisations offering different kinds of help. We know it's incredibly frustrating when you can't find help or finally get an appointment only to realise the person you are speaking to can't help you in the way you had hoped. So here's our explanation of the types of help you may be able to get and how to access them.

If you are thinking of taking a case to court or tribunal, different types of help are likely to be helpful at different times. 

This information is produced as part of The Litigant in Person Support Strategy.

Information

This is general guidance – often as leaflets, websites or short films. It can explain processes, or the law, and the best information can help you work out what to do, and how to do it, but is not tailored to your exact situation. 

Advicenow We produce free high-quality guides for people representing themselves that explain what you need to do and, most importantly, show you how to do it. Our guides also explain all the legal terms and help with the skills and confidence you need. We don’t have guides to help with every issue but we add more resources as often as we can. 

Our Top Picks Service also provides handpicked links to the best help available elsewhere on the web. You are on our website now. Go back to the Going to court section to see our most useful resources for people representing themselves at court or tribunal. 

Independent Parental Special Education Advice (known as IPSEA) offers information and help for people going to a tribunal about a decision concerning their child’s special educational needs, or a Disability Discrimination claim. 

Practical advice 

This is help with practical tasks that don’t require in-depth specialist legal knowledge – for example, helping you organise your papers and your thoughts, explain what happens in court, and refer you legal advice agencies.

Citizens Advice can offer practical advice from over 3,500 locations including high streets, community centres, doctors' surgeries, courts and prisons. Search for your local Citizens Advice service. Call: 03444 111 444 (from England) and 03444 77 20 20 (from Wales). Calls cost the same as calls to 01 and 02 numbers. They will be included as part of a mobile allowance or a landline call package. 

LawWorks supports over 200 advice clinics that provide free initial legal advice to individuals on various areas of law including social welfare issues, employment law, housing matters and consumer disputes. See if there is a clinic near you.

Independent Parental Special Education Advice  (known as IPSEA) offers help and support for people going to a tribunal about a decision concerning their child’s special educational needs, or a Disability Discrimination claim. An IPSEA Volunteer Adviser will listen to your reason for calling and assess where you are in the Tribunal process. They will give you next step advice on preparing your case. Call: 0845 602 9579. You can also book a Tribunal Helpline call at a time to suit you. Book a phone call. Calls cost 7p a minute plus whatever your call provider will charge for calling an 0845 number.

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) can provide information, advice, and sometimes representation, for benefits appeals, community care issues and challenges to discrimination if you are blind or partially sighted (or if you are a carer or relative of someone with sight loss and need help to support them).  Call: 0303 123 9999. Calls cost the same as calls to 01 and 02 numbers. They will be included as part of a mobile allowance or a landline call package.  Lines open from Monday-Friday 9am-5pm.You can also e-mail your questions to legalrights@rnib.org.uk.

Snap Cymru provides information, and advice to families in Wales about the special educational needs of their children and young people. They are able to provide support to prepare and can represent you in court or tribunal if required. Call: 0845 120 3730 from a landline or 0345 120 3730 from a mobile or email them at: helpline@snapcymru.org. Lines open Monday to Friday, 9.30am - 4.30pm. 

National Youth Advocacy Service (NYAS) offers information, advice, advocacy and legal representation for children, young people and vulnerable adults in the areas of family law, community care law, education law and public law. For information about how to contact the service, see NYAS legal services.  Call: 0808 808 1001. Lines open Monday to Friday 9am - 8pm, Saturday 10am - 4pm or you can email your questions to help@nyas.net 

RNIB Cymru works with Action on Hearing Loss Cymru, Deafblind Cymru and Sense Cymru to provide information, advice and support to people with sensory loss in Wales. They can check that you are getting the benefits and concessions that you are entitled to, arrange for any benefit application forms to be completed for you, support you through the claim process and help you challenge complex benefit decisions. Call:  0333 323 0227 Fax: 01492 534809, SMS: 07860 031200, or Email: RAISE@rnib.org.uk

Emotional support

Someone to talk to and someone to come to court with you to support you.

The Personal Support Unit provide practical advice, information and emotional support at court. PSU volunteers can accompany you to your court hearing, but they cannot represent you and cannot provide legal advice. Find out if there is a PSU service in the court you are using here. 

If your hearing is in a London county court or tribunal where there is no PSU office, you can contact them in advance to book a volunteer to come with you. Call: 020 7073 4760 or email LondonService@thepsu.org.uk. It is best to give at least two weeks’ notice. PSU’s service depends on volunteer availability so the more notice you can give, the more likely they are to be able to help. You can also get practical help before your hearing at their office in the Royal Courts of Justice. Call: 020 7947 7701/03 to book an appointment. 

Legal Advice

This means places where you can get advice about your specific case, help to work out if it's worth taking it to court, and advice about court procedures, and rules.  

Asylum Aid provides free legal advice and representation for asylum seekers and refugees. They can also assist with completing applications, claims, and appeals. Call: 0207 7354 9264 or e-mail info@asylumaid.org.uk

The Disability Law Service provides free legal advice over the telephone about employment and community care to people with disabilities and their carers. Call: 02077919800. Calls are free. Open Monday-Friday: 10am-2pm and 3pm-5pm.

Law Centres offer face-to-face legal advice to local residents, and some run a telephone advice line. Find out if there is a law centre near you.

Coram Children’s Legal Centre offers a Child Law Advice Service where you can get free and confidential advice on specific questions you may have on family law and education law if you do not have legal representation. The demand for the advice line is high, so they are only able to answer a limited number of calls. Therefore, make sure you read through the information on their website and only contact the support line with specific questions on the information provided. You can only get advice if you are a resident of England. To contact them about a family law matter, call: 0300 330 5480 or if you are contacting them about an education matter, call: 0300 330 5485. Calls cost the same as calls to 01 and 02 numbers. They will be included as part of a mobile allowance or a landline call package. Lines are available Monday-Friday between 8am-6pm.  

They also offer a call-back service between 8am-5.300pm Monday-Friday. There is a charge of £20 for a 30 minute advice call and then an additional charge of an extra £10 for each additional 15 minutes.

RCJ Advice can provide free legal advice if you are involved in a civil or family case in the County Court, High Court or Court of Appeal across England and Wales. If you live in London, you can book an appointment to see one of their solicitors at either the Royal Courts of Justice or the Central London Family Court. If you live outside of London they can provide legal advice on the phone or by email. They will assess your advice needs and either make an appointment for you or give you details of who else can help you.  Call: 0203 475 4373. Lines open Monday to Friday 10am – 1pm.

They can also provide help if you have permission to appeal to the High Court. Email civilappeal@rcjadvice.org.uk or you can visit the RCJ Advice Bureau in person between 2pm – 4pm Monday to Friday to book an appointment.

For civil cases, please visit:The RCJ Advice Bureau
Royal Courts of Justice
Strand
London
WC2A 2LL
For all family law issues, please visit:Central London Family Courts
4th Floor, First Avenue House
42-49 High Holborn
London
WC1V 6NP

Rights of Women offers free, confidential legal advice for women in England and Wales who are not eligible for legal aid and cannot afford a solicitor. Call: 0207 251 6577 for a family law matter. Lines open Tuesday 7pm-9pm, Wednesday 7pm-9pm, Thursday 7pm-9pm and Friday 12pm-2pm. If you are a woman in London. Rights of Women offer a dedicated advice line. Call: 0207 608 1137. Lines are open Monday 11am-1pm, Tuesday 2-4pm, Wednesday 2-4pm, and Thursay 2-4pm. 

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) can provide information, advice, and sometimes representation, for benefits appeals, community care issues and challenges to discrimination if you are blind or partially sighted (or if you are a carer or relative of someone with sight loss and need help to support them).  Call: 0303 123 9999. Calls cost the same as calls to 01 and 02 numbers. They will be included as part of a mobile allowance or a landline call package.  Lines open Monday-Friday 9am-5pm. You can also e-mail your questions to legalrights@rnib.org.uk.

Representation

Somebody can come with you to your court or tribunal hearing and speak for you, telling the court or tribunal about your case.

The Bar Pro Bono Unit can help find you a barrister who can provide free legal advice, help with forms, and representation at court. They can help with any legal issue as long as you are not eligible for legal aid and don't have enough money to pay for legal help.

To access the service, you need someone from a Citizens Advice Bureau, Law Centre, advice agency, MP or a practising lawyer to refer you.

You need to send a completed application form (on paper, not email) at least three weeks before the hearing or deadline for the piece of work you want help with. You can find information about how to apply here: Bar Pro Bono Unit - do you need help?

The Bar Pro Bono Unit finds barristers to assist you with a particular task in your case. So if your application is successful, you will receive help to do a specific task. After that, if you need further help you can apply again, providing at least three weeks' notice. Because they rely on volunteers, they cannot guarantee to find someone to help you, but they will do their best. 

Coram Children's Legal Centre may be able to provide representation education law. To contact them about an education matter, call: 0300 330 5485. Calls cost the same as calls to 01 and 02 numbers. They will be included as part of a mobile allowance or a landline call package. Lines are available Monday-Friday between 8am-6pm. They also offer a call-back service between 8am-5.300pm Monday-Friday. There is a charge of £20 for a 30 minute advice call and then an additional charge of an extra £10 for each additional 15 minutes.

The Free Representation Unit provides representation in employment and social security hearings in London, the South East and Nottingham. You need to get referred to use this service. Many Citizens' Advice Services in the London area are able to refer you to the Free Representation Unit; however, please check. 

Asylum Aid provides free representation for asylum seekers and refugees. They can only provide representation to people living in the London area and are unable to provide representation if you are in immigration detention. They can also assist with completing applications, claims, and appeals. To contact them, ring their advice line for free on: 0207 7354 9264 or e-mail info@asylumaid.org.uk

The Disability Law Service offers legal representation in community care and employment law. This service is only available to you if you live in Greater London. Call on 02077919800. Calls are free. Lines open Monday-Friday: 10am-2pm and 3pm-5pm. Or you can e-mail them: advice@dls.org.uk.

February 2016

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