What Is Legal Aid?


Legal aid is the provision of free legal assistance to people who cannot afford to pay for a lawyer. Legal aid not only includes the provision of legal advice and representation by a qualified lawyer free-of-charge (or at a significantly reduced cost), it also includes a reduction or waiver of court fees. Legal aid is an important element of the justice system because it helps to ensure people are not denied justice because of their financial circumstances. 

To receive legal aid, most legal aid providers apply a means test, where the applicants need to demonstrate that they do not have the financial means to pay for a lawyer. Other tests commonly applied include a merit test (looking at whether there is a legal problem that warrants representation) and suitability test (whether the legal problem is a matter that should be dealt with by legal aid). This helps legal aid providers ensure they responsibly allocate the limited resources available to it to ensure the most vulnerable receive access to the justice system.  JCLA applies a means, merit and suitability test to persons applying for legal aid. You can read more about JCLA’s eligibility tests here.

Legal aid systems have not only changed throughout time, approaches to legal aid differ between countries and legal traditions, depending on the prevailing legislative, financial and socio-economic framework.  Legal aid services can be institutionalized (funded and managed by the state), and/or be provided pro bono (free) by private lawyers or law firms, and/or be provided by non-government organisations. Most legal aid systems around the world adopt a combination of these approaches to ensure maximum legal aid service provision to the most vulnerable. JCLA advocates for an institutionalized legal aid system in Jordan that works together with non-governmental organisations and pro bono legal aid assistance by bar association members.