Legal Aid in New Zealand is available through the Legal Services Agency (LSA). The idea behind legal aid is law (and justice) should be accessible to all citizens. Once legal aid is granted, the LSA pays the lawyer and the client repays the LSA later (legal aid is a loan, not a grant).
Legal Aid is most often applied for in criminal and family matters. Civil legal aid puts more emphasis on financial elegibilty and may be declined if the claim has no prospect of success or if the likely costs involved outweigh the applicant’s interests.
The Duty Solicitor scheme, which is a form of legal aid, has recently been in the spotlight due to a damning report by Dame Bazley, which accused a minority of solicitors in the Manukau District of abusing the system. The report received nationwide attention and lead to Justice Minister Simon Power intorducing wide ranging changes to the Duty Solicitor Scheme. A summary of the changes can be found here:
Although most the changes are welcomed throughout the profession, some have been strongly critized for simply going too far, such as the yearly renewal of licenses. We will see whether the pendulum will now swing too much to the other side. Watch this space.