How to get free representation in your civil case

This page explains where and how you may be able to get a lawyer to come with you to your court hearing (or join your court hearing remotely) about a civil law issue and speak for you or help you put your case for free. This includes cases about a breach of contract, housing, debt, bankruptcy, community care, personal injury, and where somebody owes you money. It is often difficult and takes a long time, so start as soon as you can to give yourself the best chance.

Advocate  (formerly named The Bar Pro Bono Unit) can help find you a barrister who can provide you with free advice or representation at court anywhere in England and Wales. 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. 

There are two ways to get help: you can be referred by an advice agency (such as a CAB or Law Centre), an MP or practising lawyer or you can apply directly online using their form and uploading your documents with it. You need to send a completed application form at least three weeks before the hearing or deadline for the piece of work you want help with.

Legal help is provided for one piece of work at a time, for example, you could be approved for some free legal advice, and then maybe some free representation depending on the outcome of the advice. Find out more about how it works and find the online form.

Once you have submitted your application, it is assessed by the casework team to make sure there is enough information about your case for a reviewer to decide if you are eligible for free help. The team may ask you for more documents or information if the form is not complete. Once the casework team is satisfied that they have enough information, your application will be sent to a senior reviewer to decide if your case fits the financial and legal merits. If the reviewer decides you are eligible and the work will take three days or less, the Advocate team will start looking for a barrister to help you. Because they rely on volunteers, they cannot guarantee to find someone, but they will do their best. If they can't find someone, they will let you know before your hearing.

Advocate finds barristers to help you with a particular task in your case. They cannot find someone to take a whole case for free. So if your application is successful, you will receive help for that specific task. After that, if you need further help you can apply again, providing at least three weeks' notice. 

Community care issue? 

The Disability Law Service offers representation on community care issues to people who live in Greater London. Call 020 7791 9800. Lines open Monday-Friday 10am-2pm and 3pm-5pm. Calls are free. Or e-mail

Employment Tribunal Litigant in Person Support Scheme (ELIPS) offers free advice and representation at four employment tribunals (see below). They can only help if you have already begun your claim. The scheme primarily helps litigants in person with preliminary hearings listed that day at that tribunal. At the London Central clinic, volunteers can advise you if you have a hearing  within 4 weeks, or you are within four weeks of receiving a directions order after a hearing.

  • London Central Employment Tribunal (once a week every Thursday, 9am to 4pm)
  • Cardiff Employment Tribunal (usually the third Friday of the month, 9.15am to 4pm)
  • Birmingham Employment Tribunal (usually the first Friday of the month, 9.15am to 4pm)
  • Bristol Employment Tribunal (usually the second Friday of the month, 9.15am to 4pm)

If you have not found a service that can help you see our Help Directory or go back to the Going to the civil court section.  

April 2020

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