With a legal assistance policy you can say “Talk to my Lawyer”.

3rd October 2017

Nearly everyone experiences legal problems at some time or another. The problem is not everyone has money to sort it out. Take out a legal cover policy and find legal advice when you need it.

You can Find legal Advice easily on the Web

  • Some lawyers offer free legal advice on their websites
  •  Legal Aid offers free legal assistance and advice
  • There is a lot of legal info online without the need to consult with an attorney
  • For money owed to you up to R15 000, you can approach the Small Claims Court
  • Many Insurance firms offer legal aid policies at a very affordable rate.

Find legal advice

Telephonic and Face-to-Face legal Help

Legal advice comes either over the phone or face to face. Many people never get legal help because they can’t afford a lawyer. However, legal assistance is available free of charge depending on your circumstances. There are lawyers who represent people with a low income in court or for any other legal problems.

Means Test for Free legal Assistance

Any legal assistance which is free is subject to a “Means Test”.  To find out more, go to the Legal Aid South Africa website. You can also call their toll-free advice line on 0800 110 110. If you just want info that you can read, they have a ‘self-help’ page here. You can also send a ‘Please Call Me’ to 079 835 7179 and a skilled legal advisor will contact you.

If you go directly to the Legal Aid office, it’s better not to just simply arrive. Lawyers are only available to give advice on certain days. Call first to make sure a lawyer is there for you. If you feel that you may not be understood, Legal Aid will arrange for an interpreter.

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Your premium Dictates the Cover you Get

Legal assistance covers all kinds of personal legal matters – criminal and civil as well as labour related matters. However, this depends on what premiums you pay each month. Legal cover is different with each provider. Make sure you understand the terms and conditions of your policy. With a legal cover policy, you can get help with civil, criminal and labour matters.

A few Other places You can get Legal assistance –

The Small Claims Court – For claims up to the value of R15 000, you can approach the Small Claims Court. You can’t use an attorney in the Small Claims Court but you can get advice from them to prepare for your case. Services offered by the Court are free, however, they do charge a fee for the summons and the Sheriff of the Court.

Statutory Bodies – They assist with resolving legal disputes, they are cheaper than the courts and disputes are resolved quickly. Some of the bodies worth looking at are the CCMA and the Housing Rental Tribunal among others.

Not for Profit Organizations (NPO’s) – People with very little money can also apply to the Provincial Law Societies. They assess the case and forward them to law firms who have expertise in any area of concern. Attorneys do the work on a “pro bono” basis as part of a community service.

Understand the Benefits –

Research the different kinds of legal assistance, as some benefits are advertised and you’ll need to understand whether you can use them –

  • Basic benefit – This entitles you to free legal advice in some instances
  • Mediation benefit – Entitles you to free informal mediation and help
  • Litigation benefit – Covers you if you are involved in any court proceeding, regardless of whether it’s a criminal, civil or labour nature

If you need a lawyer and you’ve been paying your monthly premium, contact your service provider. They will start the proceedings to provide you with legal assistance.

Legal Clinics offer Assistance too –

Find legal advice

There are also legal clinics at universities like the University of Cape Town for example. It started off as a student-run organisation and has become an accredited law firm operating in the law faculty. You’ll get legal assistance from a student, but there will always be a qualified supervising attorney to offer help as well.

This legal assistance isn’t entirely free either as not everyone who applies for advice will qualify. The clinic helps clients who meet the Means Test. For this they must be earning less than R5 500 a month. Therefore, even if you are socially and economically disadvantaged you can get legal advice and won’t have to pay.

It’s important to know precisely what you want to see a lawyer about. Bring any paperwork along such as court order, summons, demand etc. Your time with a lawyer will be anything up to 30 minutes, but longer sessions are given to people with special circumstances. If you need more time, you can apply for a grant for a lawyer to help with your case. Legal Aid will prepare the forms for this.

Assistance from a Local Lawyer

If you find yourself on the wrong side of the law, it’s best to work with a local lawyer who knows all the local laws that apply to your particular case. Law isn’t straightforward – it is complex. A lawyer who specialises in the law that you find yourself caught up in, knows exactly how the laws affect your case and can use their skills to ensure you get the best outcome.

All info was correct at time of publishing