What is the $1 Lawyer?
When people bring up the $1 Lawyer, it is often in reference to the Legal Aid provided by the Legal Aid Bureau (LAB).
The ‘$1 Lawyer’ term is actually referring to the registration fee a person would pay when applying at the Bureau to get legal help.
Furthermore, it has to be mentioned that legal aid is not free. You would have to pay a contribution for the legal aid, in which the amount would only be determined at a later stage. (usually does not exceed $1,500).
On top of that, you would also have to pay for all necessary disbursements, (e.g costs of service, advertisements, expert reports, medical reports).
Contributions paid are not refundable and you would still have to pay for all outstanding contributions even if you withdraw your application for legal aid.
How do I engage the $1 Lawyer?
You can come down to LAB in person during office hours (Mon-Fri, 8.30am – 5pm), or apply online here.
LAB Address :
45 Maxwell Road
#07-11 The URA Centre (East Wing)
After applying, you have to go through a means test, and if you pass, then you can proceed for your first appointment. This is followed by the merits test, after which the Legal Aid Board (consisting of the Director of Legal Aid and 2 lawyers from private practices) decides to grant or refuse legal aid to you.
That being said, for simple cases, it usually takes about 4 months from your first appointment to the decision of whether to grant you Legal Aid by the Legal Aid Board.
What is the Means Test?
The means test is to determine a person’s financial eligibility. Obviously, this scheme is meant for those who are less well-off. Persons with disposable income (your income + spouse’s income for the past 12 months, after deductions) of not more than $10,000 per year and disposable capital (property which you possess or are entitled to, with certain exclusions) of not more than $10,000.
What is the Merits Test?
Merits test is to show that you have a good reason to bring or defend your case under the law.
Now that you understand the Legal Aid scheme better, how do you know if your case is covered under it?
LAB covers :
- Variation or enforcement of Court orders on ancillary matters in divorce (e.g. maintenance of ex-wife and children, division of assets and properties)
- Custody of children
- Monetary claims
- Claim for compensation in injury or medical negligence cases
- Estate matters (including the application for a Grant of Letters of Administration or Probate which are documents authorising the personal representative(s) of a deceased to deal with and distribute the deceased’s assets)
If your case is not stated here, it might not be covered under Legal Aid. However, even if your case is covered, that does not mean you are automatically granted legal help as it is still subjected to the scrutiny of Director of Legal Aid.
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