A pilot study of free and low-cost civil legal services in Auckland and Otago has found difficulties in qualifying for legal aid, and for those persons who do, it is difficult to find a lawyer who can act, due to the number of civil legal aid practitioners declining.
Otago University Legal Issues Centre researchers Kayla Stewart and Bridgett Toy-Cronin conducted the study, The New Zealand Legal Services Mapping Project: Finding Free and Low-Cost Legal Services, Auckland and Otago Pilot Report.
The authors say they have mapped the legal services in Auckland and Otago, allowing identification of gaps in service provisions.
They say that due to the limited number of free or low costs services in New Zealand, a national database of services would most helpfully be combined with a user-friendly hub for self-help legal information resources.
"It would also be helpful to have further detail about what private legal service providers aer offering to low or middle-income clients who cannot afford full private fees, including:
- Why some legal aid providers are no longer offering civil legal aid services or are only doing so on a very limited basis;
- The scope, availability, and accessibility of pro bono legal services, which several lawyers mentioned as being a source of free or low-cost legal services;
- The type of fee arrangements or discount arrangements that lawyers are offering and for which categories of clients.
The authors say they will explore these questions in the next phase of their study.