The Civil Law Legal Aid Scheme is a scheme set up by the state government so that Queenslanders can obtain legal assistance for civil law matters to be heard in a Queensland court or a tribunal where there is the power to award costs.
The scheme is funded by the Public Trustee of Queensland and administered by Legal Aid Queensland in Brisbane. The Civil Law Legal Aid Scheme provides assistance with outlays associated with civil claims approved under the schemes' guidelines and in some circumstances contributes towards the solicitors professional costs.
In July 1992 Legal Aid Queensland ceased funding civil law matters where there is a power in a court or tribunal to award costs. In May 1993 the Civil Law Legal Aid Scheme (CLLAS) was introduced. The scheme was an initiative of the Minister for Justice and Attorney-General intended to bridge the gap caused as a result of the changes in legal aid policy.
Funds for cases approved under the scheme are provided by the Public Trustee of Queensland while the scheme is administered by Legal Aid Queensland.
The scheme considers all civil litigation cases, including business and commercial disputes but priority may be given to funding personal injury cases. In recent years the scheme has expanded its guidelines to include aid for public interest and test cases.
In order to give effect to this scheme, guidelines have been agreed upon by the Public Trustee of Queensland and Legal Aid Queensland. The Public Trustee has appointed the Chief Executive Officer, Legal Aid Queensland, as the Public Trustee's delegate and agent for the purpose of the administration of the scheme.
Full details of the scheme's guidelines are available in the Civil Law Legal Aid Scheme guidelines.
Applying for legal assistance from CLLAS
Before applying for assistance under CLLAS applicants should obtain legal advice in relation to their civil claim. The purpose of the legal advice session is to verify that there is a potential claim and inform the applicant on relevant steps that may need to be taken before applying for assistance from the scheme.
Further information on obtaining legal advice is available in the legal information area of our website.
If obtaining legal advice from Legal Aid Queensland, applicants should request the name of a firm on the scheme's panel that is located in their region/location. Applicants should then approach the firm and indicate that they are applying for legal assistance under CLLAS and ask the firm to consider representing them in accordance with CLLAS guidelines. If the firm agrees to represent the applicant then the firm will assist the applicant in completing a standard Legal Aid Queensland application form. The application should then be forwarded direct to the scheme's coordinator at the Brisbane office of Legal Aid Queensland.
If an applicant is unable to approach a firm on the scheme's list due to the location where they live, a disability, or other personal or physical reasons then the applicant should complete the Legal Aid Queensland application form and submit it direct to the scheme's coordinator at the Brisbane office of Legal Aid Queensland. The applicant should provide supporting documentation explaining the circumstances of their claim. Legal Aid Queensland application forms are available from any Legal Aid Queensland office, Public Trustee of Queensland office or your local solicitor.
All applications for aid submitted to CLLAS are subject to the Legal Aid Queensland means test. Applicants should provide proof of their financial means (income and assets), including recent pay slips, copies of pension card or health care card, current account statements from bank or financial institutions.
The scheme will apply the Legal Aid Queensland means test to determine financial eligibility. Where the applicant is financially eligible, the application will be referred to the scheme's advisory committee. Should the applicant be financially ineligible, the application will be refused.
The scheme's advisory committee
Requests for aid to the scheme are determined by an advisory committee. The committee consists of The Public Trustee (or nominee) and the Chief Executive Officer, Legal Aid Queensland (or nominee) assisted by the scheme coordinator. Decisions with respect to funding are made on a consensus basis. The majority of applications are considered individually by committee members and the decisions recorded.
When deciding whether to grant aid the committee members consider the following aspects of the applicant's claim:
- the legal merits of the case: (the applicant must have reasonable prospects of success)
- the nature and extent of any benefit the applicant will gain if aid is granted
- the detriment the applicant may suffer if aid is refused
- where the application relates to a matter of public interest or is a test case.
Public interest/test cases
The scheme's advisory committee may consider funding for matters of public interest or test cases in certain circumstances. A "public interest" or "test case" is one where:
- the action involves an issue of broad public importance, the determination of which will benefit the public in general or a section of the public, or
- the matter deals with a legal issue previously untested, but its determination could be applied for the benefit of other potential litigants.
Aid may be granted where the scheme's advisory committee considers the applicant has sufficient merit to justify aid being granted. Aid may be approved initially to investigate the claim after which time further aid may be considered.
Where aid is approved, the scheme will fund outlays identified in a budget forecast by the legal firm representing the applicant. For matters where aid is approved to progress to trial, the solicitor will be paid $2,000 in cases in the District and Supreme Courts and $500 in the Magistrates Court, on account of professional fees for work completed and to be completed up to and including the trial.
At the successful conclusion of the matter, applicants are to refund to the scheme the total amount of funding provided by the scheme.
All grants of aid under the scheme are subject to the execution of a client's acknowledgment which contains an irrevocable authority securing the repayment of monies to the scheme.
Legal firms on the scheme's special list have agreed to speculate their professional fees for CLLAS clients until the successful conclusion of the claim.
Applicants should be aware that if their claim is unsuccessful then there is a possibility that costs could be awarded against them. In these circumstances no funding will be provided by the scheme towards these costs.
The scheme relies on private firms to represent clients. There is a list of approved practitioners who have agreed to represent applicants in accordance with the scheme's guidelines.
The firms are under no obligation to represent clients funded under the scheme.
Only applicants who are represented by a firm on the scheme's list will be eligible for legal assistance under the scheme. Applicants can obtain details of firms in their area that are on the scheme's list by contacting either the Legal Aid Queensland call centre or the scheme's coordinator on 1300 65 11 88.
Right of appeal
Where aid is refused under the Civil Law Legal Aid Scheme there is no right of appeal.
The scheme's advisory committee, on application, may reconsider an application where there has been a material change of circumstances.
Legal practitioners requiring more detailed information should refer to the solicitors guide.
*Further information about the Public Trustee of Queensland and the services they provide are available on their website.
CLLAS application form
An electronic version of the Civil Law Legal Aid Scheme application form is available. To obtain a copy of the form, contact the Coordinator, Civil Law Legal Aid Scheme or telephone 1300 65 11 88.