How Do I Get a Court Appointed Lawyer?

Most Australian at some stage in their lives may find themselves involved in a legal issue and require legal advice. However, for those who cannot afford lawyer fees, legal aid funding is so limited that there is usually a strict criteria to become eligible and even most living below the poverty line are not even eligible. So for those not eligible for Legal Aid, how can you get a court appointed lawyer? Read on to find out the process of being allocated a court appointed lawyer.

Assistance in Court

Requesting a court appointed lawyer

If you are going to appear in court and are not eligible for Legal Aid or a Pro Bono Referral Scheme, you may be able to obtain a court appointed lawyer to represent you. The first instance where you can request for a court appointed lawyer is usually when your case appears in court. When the magistrate/judge calls your case in court, they will ask whether you have attained legal representation and if not, whether you would like to have a court appointed lawyer. However, the amount of time and effort spent by court-appointed lawyers on cases are not at the standard they used to be. This is mainly because of reduced government funding and higher caseloads.

Are you eligible for a court appointed lawyer?

Generally, lawyers will be representing you at the government’s expense. In order to be eligible for a court appointed lawyer, you are required to:

  • Ask the court that you require a court appointed lawyer
  • Provide them with your financial details showing your inability to afford legal representation

Some courts may postpone your hearing until a lawyer is appointed for the duration of your case or others could be delayed until the court investigates your financial situation to determine whether you meet the eligibility criteria. If you do, the magistrate/judge will appoint a lawyer present in court to assist with the remainder of your case. However, this lawyer is not always the same and can change based on their availabilities.

There is some flexibility of this eligibility criteria, mainly to take into consideration the seriousness of the alleged crime or the probable length of the trial. A magistrate/judge might still appoint a court appointed lawyer, even when you have a decent wage and may be able to hire a private lawyer. This is when they determine the charges against you are more serious or if it appears that your trial will be quite long.

Other Court-Based Legal Assistance

If you are going to attend court and are unable to secure Legal Aid assistance, the court will formally refer you to a legal practitioner to assist you. This court-based referral scheme provides assistance in representation but may also be limited only to completing forms or advice on court processes

Another court-based legal assistance is the duty lawyer schemes. Duty lawyers are whom you can seek advice from on the day of your court appearance. They may provide assistance to you outside court or they may go with you into court. But, rather than representing you in court, duty lawyers are more assistants to the court. One bonus of duty lawyers is that you do not need to be eligible for legal aid for a duty lawyer to help. However, you need to be eligible for Legal Aid in order for the duty lawyer to represent you in court.


Finding legal representation or assistance in court can be tedious process. But it does not have to be. A court appointed lawyer is one that is ordered by the court after careful consideration of your alleged offence or duration of the trial. In addition, there are various other court-based legal assistance that are available to you, to provide assistance in court and legal representation in court.

Are you looking to obtain affordable legal solutions? Contact a LawPath consultant on 1800 529 728 to learn more about obtaining a fixed-fee quote from one our network of 1000+ expert lawyers or to get answers to your legal questions.

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