Civil legal services or aid refers to the free legal services provided to people of all backgrounds who do not have the ability to navigate the judicial system on their own due to reasons like poor income level. In short words, it is legal aid extended to anyone who urgently requires it and is unable to access it. Such civil legal aid ensures that there is fairness in our system of justice for everyone in the country, despite how much money they might have, how old they are, what their gender and background are etc. Due to such services, all citizens are able to receive equal legal assistance in court. Civil aid is generally provided by certain non-profit legal aid organizations, pro bono volunteers and other self-help centers that are funded by the government to provide such legal aid to impoverished groups of people.
Some examples of such civil legal services include:
– Legal representation for those who cannot afford to hire an attorney on their own. In such situations, these people are assigned an attorney by the judge from a public defender’s office. This attorney will represent them throughout the duration of the case.
– Legal assistance in the form of self- help centres for people to learn and understand their legal rights. These include workshops, telephone and online helplines, chat stations, legal and medical assistance etc. All of these allow people to understand their legal responsibilities and gain easy access to all legal services.
– Pro Bono assistance for people with an income level that is at least 125 % lesser than the poverty level. – Assistance in the form of access to online web-based information including easy to understand forms that they can use in their legal proceedings.
– Identifying and addressing certain issues and finding solutions to problems faced by a majority of people.
Such civil legal services provide safety and security to all people by ensuring the protection of their livelihood, health, family and housing. People are given a sense of individual safety via legal protection from cases of domestic violence, harassment, child or elder abuse, stalking etc.
It further, helps people know their legal rights and access to basic necessities and government benefits provided to them like housing loans, medical care etc. Finally, civil aid also ensures economic security for all citizens via employment and payment, consumer protection against unfair practises etc.
Unfortunately, there are some barriers that can prevent you from receiving legal aid as well, mostly due to the limited amount of funding. As these legal services and self-help centres are often funded by the government, they are usually only able to take up a set number of cases and as a result, almost 50 per cent of those reaching out for legal aid are turned away. Even so, thousands of helpless people have managed to receive legal aid that helped them fight their cases in court and emerge successfully.