Accessing legal advice for free
Relevant across multiple law types
Legal helplines can be a source of legal advice and assistance, but you need to be aware of their limits.
Several charities, membership organisations insurers and others run legal helplines. We talk elsewhere on this site about Legal Expense insurance but often a legal Helpline is a benefit that is attached to that.
In addition, the Legal Aid Agency run several Legal helplines providing advice in some specialist areas of the law such as discrimination.
So, it is often worth checking your memberships, insurance policies and doing some internet or other research to see whether you have access to a legal helpline.
Some of them are run on a 24/7 basis but will have a skeleton staff on late at night. Therefore, unless you have a very urgent matter it is probably best ringing during the day rather than 3am on a Sunday night.
The scope of service offered by legal helplines will vary. Some are staffed by solicitors and others by specialists who have some legal knowledge but may not be solicitors. It’s rare for helplines to be staffed all the time by fully qualified solicitors but their helpline advisors may be able to put you in touch with in house or external solicitors.
Many helplines will offer an initial guidance and assistance service where they may listen to your issue and point you in the right direction to get further advice on it and progress it. Those type of helplines will not typically look at lots of documents that you may have or start corresponding with you or anyone on your behalf. Some may offer a wider service and would look at documents or even start drafting documents for you. It will be rare that a helpline service will take you through from the start of a case to the conclusion of a trial or tribunal hearing. So, it’s best to get an understanding of what they will and won’t be able to help you with at the outset.
Most operate on a telephone advice basis, but some will engage by e mail or letter. It’s unlikely that they will set up face to face meetings with you. So again, you need to be clear about the scope of the service and make sure that it matches with your needs.
Some helplines run by insurers or legal expense insurers will also operate as a claims line, so they will help you determine whether you have a claim under a legal expense insurance policy and assist you make that claim.
Here are some links that might help you get started: