For Individuals

I need help

We find legal help for individuals who cannot get it any other way. We are a service of last resort. For individuals, you must be referred to us by a Community Law Centre. You must also meet our eligibility criteria.

If you are an organisation, go to our For Organisations page.


How it works

You need to be referred from a Community Law Centre to be eligible for our service. You also need to meet financial requirements. Here's how it works:

Am I eligible?

Your local Community Law Centre will help work out if you meet the financial requirements for help.  Here's a summary of what they look for:

  1. The number of people in your family household
  2. Your annual family income
  3. Whether you rent or own your home
  4. Whether you have assets and debts

The Community Law Centre will also work out if a referral is appropriate.  Here's a summary of what they look for:

  1. there is a good chance your case can be resolved
  2. it's reasonable to ask a lawyer to do the work for free

In many cases, the Community Law Centre will simply sort things out rather than contact us.

What we help with

We have experts in almost every area of law.

Most eligible people get one or more of the following:

  • legal advice
  • help to solve a dispute (such as negotiation or mediation)
  • legal documents written for them (such as court documents)

Sometimes our lawyers will go to Court for people or do complex transactions.

Our lawyers are volunteers.  We only ask them to work for free when we think its reasonable to do so.

Think you are eligible?

Legal fees

Our lawyers do not charge legal fees to individuals.

But there can still be some charges:

  • Our volunteer lawyers do a fixed number of tasks for free. The free tasks are agreed at the start.
  • You may have to pay for any extra work you ask the lawyer to do.
  • You may have to pay for some office expenses, such as phone calls and photocopying. In most cases, clients will not have to pay for any of these.

If your case goes to Court, you might be asked to enter into a costs agreement with your lawyer. This means your lawyer can be compensated for some of their time (but the compensation is paid by your opponent).

Terms & documents


Here are some answers to commmon questions about Te Ara Ture and how our service works.

Te Ara Ture is a national pro bono referral service.  We refer worthy and meaningful pro bono opportunities through our online portal to our network of wonderful lawyers and firms.

Te Ara Ture is a service of last resort.  It’s for people who want legal help but cannot get it through private lawyers or other free services.  Te Ara Ture works with people who have a legal problem, are not eligible for legal aid (or cannot find a legal aid lawyer), are genuinely unable pay for the help they need, and where legal help is likely to lead to a positive outcome.

Te Ara Ture cannot help with second opinions or with matters that have no realistic chance of a positive outcome.  If you have already received detailed legal advice, we probably cannot help.

Currently we only accept applications through Community Law Centres.  The Community Law Centre in your area will apply to Te Ara Ture on your behalf if you meet the eligibility criteria. Later this year we will start accepting applications from the public and other organisations.

You must pass a financial test and a legal merits test.  To pass the financial test you must be in the bottom ½ of income earners and have few assets.  People who own their own homes can still qualify but it is less likely.  To pass the merits test your issue must have a reasonable chance of a being sorted out, and be serious enough for justify a lawyer working for free.

Te Ara Ture will tell you within 5 days if your application is accepted.  Te Ara Ture will then post your matter on a secure online portal.  Registered lawyers will use the portal to tell Te Ara Ture whether they want to help.  If someone offers to help Te Ara Ture will let you know and introduce you to the lawyer.

No.  Te Ara Ture does not guarantee a lawyer will help you.  All our registered lawyers have day jobs.  They will only offer help if they have capacity and the issue matches their expertise.

Te Ara Ture will tell you within 5 days if your application is declined.  If your application is accepted, but no lawyer offers help within 30 days Te Ara Ture may remove your matter from the portal – we will tell you if this happens.  In either case, we will give you information about other options you could consider.

No.  Te Ara Ture is just a referral agency.  All we do is offer your case to a network of volunteer lawyers.  If someone accepts the offer, we then make an introduction to you.  You do not have a lawyer/client relationship with Te Ara Ture at any time during the referral process.

Your lawyer/client relationship with the Community Law Centre will finish when you apply to Te Ara Ture.  This is because lawyers can’t work for other lawyer’s clients.  In some cases you can go back to your law centre once the volunteer lawyer has finished working on your case.

Legal fees and other costs

Lawyers usually charge for the time it takes to complete tasks AND office expenses they incurred in doing the tasks (such as phone calls and printing).  When accepting a referral, the volunteer lawyer agrees to do a fixed number of tasks for free.  The free tasks are defined by Te Ara Ture on the portal. The volunteer lawyer also agrees to waive some or all their office expenses.  In most cases, clients will not have to pay for any office expenses.

You may have to pay office expenses if your case is unusually complex or costly.  You will also have to pay any costs required by a third party.  These include, but may not be limited to, court filing fees, expert witnesses, interpreters and travel expenses that the pro bono provider could incur on your behalf. Finally, if you ask your lawyer to do tasks that are not part of the agreed free tasks, they may charge you for these at their normal rates.  You should be told about any of the charges described in this paragraph before they are incurred.

When a person loses a court case the Court will usually order them to pay the legal fees of the successful person. This is done to discourage unnecessary litigation.  If your case goes to Court, and you lose, you will be solely liable for paying those costs.

If you win your Court case, your lawyer would usually have some of their fees paid for by the person who lost.  This does not happen automatically with a Te Ara Ture referral because the legal work was done for free.  However, it can happen if you enter into a costs agreement with your lawyer.  This agreement basically says, “you only have to pay legal fees if you win, and only if you win enough to take your fair share first”.  We think this is reasonable because Court cases take a lot of effort from your lawyer, and its reasonable for them to be compensated if there is a surplus.  It also removes a strategic advantage the other side might otherwise have – knowing they could litigate without the risk of Court costs.

About the pro bono portal

Te Ara Ture uses a secure online portal to match legal matters with volunteer lawyers.  The portal is award winning software developed by Justice Connect in Australia.  It is used in Australia by over 170 firms and is being rolled out in multiple jurisdictions around the world.  Te Ara Ture hosts and operates a standalone version of the software.  You can read more about the global project here:

The portal is our main way of sending pro bono work to our network of volunteer lawyers and communicating with them.  Only lawyers who are registered with us can access the portal.

We need to put some information about your matter on the portal.  We need to do this so the volunteer lawyers can determine if they have the expertise and time to help.  We also post identity information (such as your name) – but only once a lawyer has expressed an interest in helping you (and only that lawyer gets identity information).  Once the case has been accepted by a lawyer, we upload all the information we have about you so they can start working on it.

For this service to work properly your personal information needs to be shared between Te Ara Ture, community law centres, and volunteer lawyers.  Te Ara Ture also needs to collect, analyse and report on information created by users of its service.  This allows us to improve things and access ongoing funding.  Your personal information is very important and we take great care to protect it.  More information about why we collect information, how we use it and how it is protected is contained in our privacy policy.

Some level of disclosure is necessary.  However, if your issue is particularly sensitive, we may be able to include additional safeguards to protect you.  Please contact us if you think this applies to you.

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