But legal fees can be expensive.
With solicitors usually charging by the hour, and days in court costing more than foreign holidays for the entire family, getting legal support can seem out of reach when you’ve got little income or savings.
However, there are several ways you can get help with accessing legal support.
Here are seven ways you can reduce, defer, or get help paying legal fees when you don’t have much money.
1: No win no fee agreements
One way you can avoid paying upfront legal costs is by making a no win no fee agreement with your solicitor.
The idea is that your solicitor won’t charge you for their services unless they win you compensation. If they do win your case, they’ll recover their costs from who you’re claiming against, as well as by taking a percentage of your compensation as a success fee.
Provided you put legal protection insurance in place to protect yourself against legal action from the other side, no win no fee agreements are a risk-free way of accessing legal help without any upfront costs.
Remember, no win no fee agreements are limited to certain cases. They’re illegal when it comes to criminal law, divorce cases, and family law matters.
2: Legal aid
You might be able to apply for legal aid to help you pay for some or even all your legal costs. However, access to it is extremely limited.
Whether you’ll get legal aid depends on what type of law your case is, as well as your financial situation.
There are many areas of law that don’t qualify for legal aid at all, such as business disputes, most money disputes, and conveyancing.
Where legal aid is available, you’ll typically be subjected to a means test before it’s granted. The lack of funding in the system means that even a modest income or amount of savings could make you ineligible. However, legal aid might be there for you if you’re in a particularly weak financial position.
You might be able to get legal aid to pay for a divorce or childcare proceedings without being subjected to a means test if you or your children have suffered domestic abuse. You will still need to provide evidence of the abuse to qualify which, unfortunately, can be difficult.
You can check if you qualify for legal aid before you apply.
3: Legal expense insurance
You might be able to use legal expense insurance to fund your legal fees. This is a type of insurance that will cover your legal costs in certain cases. Typically, legal expense insurance will cover legal issues such as:
· Unfair dismissal, or workplace discrimination
· Personal injury from an accident that wasn’t your fault
· Disputes involving faulty goods or services
Legal expense insurance often comes with common insurance policies, like house or car insurance. So, it’s worth checking any insurance policies you’ve taken out to see if you’re already covered.
You can’t use legal expense insurance to fund legal fees for issues that start before you take out the policy.
4: Apply to reduce court fees
If you’re on benefits, or have little to no income or savings, you might be able to apply to get reduced court fees.
As with legal aid, the reduction in court fees is means tested. For example, you need to earn less than £1245 a month, or have savings of less than £3000 to qualify.
You can check if you’re eligible before you apply.
5: Support from your trade union
Most trade unions offer legal support to their members. The type of support varies, but if you’re a trade union member, it’s worth contacting them to see if they can help.
For issues involving employment law, such as workplace discrimination and employment disputes, trade unions might provide substantial support, like free representation from a specialist solicitor.
Support for other types of legal issues will vary from union to union, but can include:
· Free consultations with a solicitor
· Reduced hourly rates with a solicitor
Contact your trade union for more information.
6: Get a free legal consultation
Sometimes, you’re not sure if you want to take legal action or not. Instead, you want to find out what your rights are and what your legal position is.
If you’re in this situation, look for a solicitor who will offer you a free consultation. Alternatively, find someone who will offer you a consultation for a fixed fee, so at least you’ll know in advance what the advice will cost.
Having an initial consultation is a good way of finding out whether it’s worth taking further legal action or not. For example, a solicitor could tell you how likely you would be to win a dispute in court. Furthermore, they could tell you whether any compensation you might win would cover your legal fees or not. If not, you may decide that there’s no benefit to be had in taking further legal action.
Find out more about getting the most out of an initial consultation in our guide: Five things to ask a lawyer before you hire them.
7: Borrowing money from family or friends
Borrowing money from family or friends is a way you could pay for legal fees upfront.
The benefit of borrowing money is that you’ll be able to pay for as much legal support as you think you need. However, borrowing to pay for legal action should be a last resort.
Legal disputes can drag on for months or years, potentially resulting in huge costs. So, you should think carefully about whether the legal action is worth taking or not before asking family or friends for money.
If you do decide that taking legal action is right for you, make sure that you’ll be able to repay what you borrow. Ask your solicitor for an estimate of costs that considers the worst-case scenario. That way, everyone will know how much money may be needed to see your case through.