Applying for help through LawHelp

What's the application process?

  1. Read the introduction to LawHelp.
  2. Make sure you have approval to apply for LawHelp on your organisation's behalf; and prepare any relevant documents to include as part of your application.
  3. Apply online—or use the printable form (54kb Word doc).

What happens next?

Secretariat

Your application will be processed by the LawHelp secreteriat. They will check that all the relevant details have been provided, and if need be contact you for clarification. The secretariat helps entities to complete their LawHelp application, if required, and acts as a mailbox between the entity and the lawyers involved.

To determine whether an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander corporation is non-profit, LawHelp will consider the corporation's:

  • objectives (in its rule book)
  • status as a public benevolent institution or deductible gift recipient—or whether it has the benefit or any other taxation concessions normally applied by the Australian Taxation Office to not-for-profit organsations
  • level of government funding and gross income
  • income, expenditure and assets
  • business and day-to-day activities.

A note on confidentiality—All applications are treated confidentially but please note that while your application is with ORIC's LawHelp secretariat, it may be subject to disclosure by court discovery, subpoena or requests made under the Freedom of Information Act 1982. You may not be able to claim legal professional privilege for the application or any other information held by the LawHelp secretariat or assessment panel.

Legal professional privilege

Legal professional privilege is a rule that says confidential communications between lawyers and their clients cannot be disclosed.

Assessment

All being well, your application will proceed to the LawHelp assessment panel, which comprises:

  • a government lawyer
  • a volunteer lawyer, and
  • an independent legal adviser.

The panel looks at each application and within 21 days determines whether the matter will be referred to a lawyer or law firm. In the case of applications from corporations already registered under the CATSI Act, the panel takes into consideration:

  • whether the corporation has already received help from another source
  • the corporation's rule book, and
  • previous annual reports lodged with ORIC.

Outcome

The LawHelp assessment panel may approve all or part of an entity's application, or decline it altogether. Conditions may also be placed on a successful application, such as a limit on the number of hours that can be spent on a particular matter.

In exceptional circumstances, LawHelp’s assessment panel can approve an application for legal help if it is not within the guidelines. All decisions by the assessment panel are final.

When an application is successful...

If your application is approved, the LawHelp secretariat will send a copy of the application and supporting documents to a lawyer. The lawyer will contact you to provide legal help.

The kind of help available will depend on the circumstances of the request. The help or advice will usually be in writing, for example the drafting of a legal document such as a letter or contract. The legal help offered is flexible. For example, the lawyer may decide that other actions are appropriate. Lawyers are mostly located in major cities and communication will be by phone, email or letter.

When an application is unsuccessful...

If the corporation (or entity) does not qualify for help under the LawHelp guidelines, the LawHelp secretariat will return your application (but keep a record of the application to monitor and evaluate LawHelp’s success). We will also send the corporation (or entity) a written explanation of the reasons for the decision. LawHelp may suggest that the applicant seek help from an alternative pro bono organisation.

Contributing lawyers and law firms