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Community Legal Services: Free Legal Aid and Beyond

The big issue with community legal services: Free legal aid and beyond is the difficulty in qualifying for it. Stringent financial qualifying conditions make it no certainty for the majority of people to receive free legal aid. In the Land of the Lawyer justice is no level playing field, money will always buy you more bang for your buck in the courtroom. Community legal services will always be the poor relation when it comes to defending your rights against injustice. Wealth speaks in a loud voice in a capitalist society and deeper pockets most often prevail in the majority of legal disputes.

Community Legal Services: Free Legal Aid and Beyond

Hollywood films like to portray the victory of the underdog, especially the odd David and Goliath story between the down trodden individual and corporate America. I say odd, because it rarely ever happens in reality; and when it does, it is such an anomaly it is worth making a movie about. Grab a big star like Julie Roberts and dress her down in unsuitable clothes and make-up for the first half of the film; turning a silk purse into a sow’s ear, believe it or not. Maybe, throw in a legal representative with substance abuse problems, and then, turn it all around in a narrative about redemption; there you have the formula for box office success.

The idea of community legal services and free legal aid is a worthy one, but does the reality meet the sentiment? Legal advice in Sydney often informs the client that they do not qualify for legal aid, because they cannot prove their poverty. In my own experience in a custody matter involving my ex-wife and our children, I was forced to fill out copious amounts of financial statements, which I was happy to do. I was appointed the junior lawyer in the firm and was informed many weeks later that I had failed to establish my case for legal aid. In the meantime, I was estranged from my children and unable to prosecute my case against my ex-wife over my access rights to my children.

Personal injury lawyers are not legal aid lawyers; they do not work for nothing. They usually take a third or more of the action if successful. No win no fee, is their kind of charity. This kind of justice is reflective of the economic system we live in, mistakenly called free enterprise, but there is nothing free about anything.