Q:  I need to know what can I do if I can't afford to pay a lawyer and I really need it to take a case to the court.

This is tricky. This is my general advice to people who can't afford legal representation:

  • Do you really need to go to court? People go to court when they are either suing or being sued.  Court is expensive, it's stressful, and it's intense.  Most cases, an overwhelming majority of cases, like, upwards of 90% of all cases get sorted by mediation.  Mediation is cheaper, easier, quicker and it allows you to move on with your life in a way that's usually a lot more dignified than getting a court order.  Investigate if you ACTUALLY need to go to court, you may want to go to court but the expense, stress and inconvenience of it may not actually be worth it.  Do some research: www.disputes.vic.gov.au
  • You may qualify for legal aid.  Victoria Legal Aid can't assist in all matters and they have some strict criteria.  Find out more: www.legalaid.vic.gov.au
  • If your case is in the public interest talk to the people at Law Connect.  They can't help everyone and they too have strict criteria but if your case qualifies they'll do it for free. For more: www.justiceconnect.org.au
  • Have a chat to your local community legal centre: www.communitylaw.org.au
  • You may be able to get a free initial consultation with a lawyer through the Law Institute: www.liv.asn.au

Having said that, you can always represent yourself.  If you choose to do this just know that you are going to have to do a little bit of research.  First of all, you have to find out if you actually have a problem you can sue someone over.

You can't sue people just because you feel like it, or because they've annoyed you in some way.  You have to have a dispute where you have suffered some sort of loss or injury that requires a legal remedy or someone is doing or not doing something to you or your property that you want them to stop or start doing.

Once you've established that, you have to establish if you are the person that needs to do the suing, in law this is called to have standing.  If you want to sue someone on behalf of someone else this may not be allowed.  It's the person who has been wronged that needs to bring a claim as they are the ones that have standing in the eyes of the court.  This isn't always the case necessarily so you need to figure out why you want to sue someone.

Then you need to figure out in which court.  There are different courts that deal with different types of disputes and you have to start your proceedings in the right court.  Your best bet is to do some research into the courts in your state, what they can and do hear and how to begin the process.  

Have a chat to the people at the registry office in the court that is the most appropriate to you, they will not give you legal advice but they will let you know what forms you need to fill in and the fees you need to pay (if any) to start the process.  Most courts also have a section on their websites about how to represent yourself.

I wish you the best of luck.