Getting legal help
If you need legal help, you may need a lawyer.
There are two types of lawyers in New Zealand. Barristers do court work; solicitors do other legal work that does not require them to represent their clients in court. Most lawyers are qualified as both but usually choose to do court work or legal work.
Lawyers must treat everything you tell them as confidential. The advice they give must be independent and they must use their skill for your benefit. The services lawyers offer include:
- Providing advice on legal rights
- Representing you in cases involving the police
- Checking legal documents
- Helping with immigration applications
- Providing the services involved in buying properties and businesses (‘conveyancing’)
- Preparing rental and lease agreements
- Drafting wills
- Undertaking divorce proceedings
- Arranging compensation or other forms of redress if you’ve suffered fraud or misrepresentation.
Lawyers’ fees vary widely. Always ask how much you are going to be charged before getting a lawyer to do any work for you.
Lawyers are listed in the Yellow Pages under both ‘Lawyers’ and ‘Barristers & Solicitors’.
The New Zealand Law Society also has a website where you can find a lawyer or law firm.
Help with legal costs
In some cases, the government can help with the costs of lawyers for court action by providing ‘legal aid’.
Legal aid has lots of conditions and restrictions. You may need to pay it back at some later date.
Legal aid is available only for matters that cannot be resolved without a lawyer acting for you in court, or to help you settle a matter out of court. You cannot get legal aid for divorce, or if you only want to talk to a lawyer.
If you do need advice, but you are not sure you can afford a lawyer, a Citizens Advice Bureau or Community Law Centre may be able to help. They also have restrictions on who can and cannot use their services, but they are a good place to start and they can tell you if you may qualify for legal aid. Alternatively, someone at the local District Court can tell you how to apply for legal aid.