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Last update: 04-11-2009
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Legal aid - General Information

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This page is currently being updated. The update will be available in the European e-Justice Portal.

Legal aid: guaranteeing access to justice

If you do not have sufficient financial resources to meet the costs of a court case you can apply for legal aid.

Imagine a situation in which you are in dispute with a company, a professional person, your employer, a member of your family or somebody else in your own country or abroad. If you are unable to resolve the dispute amicably you may take the case to court, or you may be required to defend yourself if the other party takes the initiative of bringing a case against you.

Your first move may be to talk to a lawyer who will explain your rights and tell you whether or not it is worth going to court.

Legal aid systems exist in all EU Member States.

They differ from one another in terms of the nature and scope of the aid available and the conditions for entitlement, but the aim of all systems is the same: to ensure effective access to justice for all.

Under certain conditions these national systems provide:

  • Exemption from or assistance with all or part of the court costs.
  • The assistance of a lawyer who will provide pre-litigation advice and will represent you in court, if necessary, either free or for a modest fee.
By clicking on the flags of the Member States you can obtain information you need to familiarise yourself with the national legal aid systems and the conditions for obtaining legal aid, for example as regards:
  • Your financial resources.
  • The type of cases for which legal aid can be granted.
  • Conditions relating to the substance of the dispute.
If you want to apply for legal aid in a Member State other than your own there are international conventions that can make matters easier. Information on this subject can be found by clicking on the "international law" icon.

The European Commission has also produced a proposal for a Directive on legal aid, which was adopted by the Council in January 2003. Information about this can be found by clicking on the "Community law" icon.


Last update: 04-11-2009

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