Getting legal assistance | Western Cape Government


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Getting legal assistance


When you’re suspected of committing an offence, or where a judge needs to decide on a dispute between you and someone else or a company, you'll need legal assistance. Getting access to reliable legal advice and assistance can be an overwhelming task if you consider that standard attorney fees range from R1 500 - R2 500 an hour.

If you can’t afford the services of a law practitioner, there are various legal organisations in South Africa that assist those who qualify for free legal help when faced with criminal and civil cases.


Young couple with attorneyThe organisations in South Africa that can help are:

Legal Aid

You can get access to quality legal service from a Legal Aid office near you

Who qualifies for Legal Aid?

Any person who lives in South Africa can approach Legal Aid if their cases are civil, involves children or involves asylum seekers. Civil cases of non-citizens don’t qualify for legal aid.  To get legal aid, you have to pass a "means test", proving that you earn less than an amount determined by the Legal Aid Board. The amount is reviewed every year and the following is considered:

  • You own a home.
    The total value of the house and all your belongings mustn’t be worth more than R640 000. You must only have 1 house and you must live in it.
  • You don't own a home.
    The total value of all your belongings (for example, your car, furniture, clothes and other personal things) mustn’t be worth more than R128 000.
  • You’re receiving a state grant
    You’ll have to take the means test, and you’ll need to show official documentation that you’re receiving a state grant or pension.
  • You’re elderly.
    You don’t have to take the means test, and you’ll need to present documentation that you’re receiving a state grant or pension.
  • You’re a child.
    In criminal cases, children automatically qualify for Legal Aid and don’t have to take the means test. If it’s a civil case, the family of the child will need to take and pass the means test. 

You don’t pay for legal aid

If you qualify for legal aid, and Legal Aid SA agrees to represent you, the service will be completely free, and you won’t be held responsible for any of the fees involved.

If you win a civil case, they will deduct the money that the court grants to pay for costs and benefits, before they pay the money owing to you.

Note: Legal Aid South Africa lawyers may not ask for payment or be paid when they assist you with your case. If this does happen, please report the lawyer to Legal Aid SA by calling their Ethics Hotline on 0800 153 728, or visiting their website or going to their offices.

If you need more information or advice, please contact your nearest Legal Aid Board Offices  (also called Justice Centres), or 1 of the following legal aid clinics:


Older couple with attorneyPro bono (free) attorney

There are attorney’s and law firms that offer free legal help to people who have a legal problem that holds merit. A means test will be done to see if you qualify for the assistance of a pro bono attorney.

Where can I get access to a pro bono attorney?

You can access the Legal Practice Council website and find out how to lodge a complaint and download the application form.

You can also contact the following organisations for assistance by a pro bono attorney:


They facilitate the provision of free legal services for the poor by volunteer private lawyers.

For more information contact:

Address: Suite 200, 57 Strand Street, Cape Town, 8001
Tel: 087 806 6070/1/2
Fax: 086 665 6740

South African Society for Labour Law: 

They deliver a quality advisory service and limited Labour law legal services to those who don’t have access to justice.

For more information contact:

Fatima Rustin
Operating hours: Cape Town: 09:00 to 14:00 Friday

Free legal advice

Family Law Clinic

They’re an NGO that offers free legal advice in matters relating to family law.  They help families in matters relating to domestic issues such as:

  • Domestic violence
  • Child abuse
  • Abuse of the aged
  • Maintenance issues
  • Marital conflict
  • Guardianship
  • Adoption

They will also help with any other areas of family conflict requiring counselling and/or legal resolution.

For more information contact:

Family law clinics:

Somerset West
3 Griselda Close, Somerset West
Tel: 021 851 5504
Fax: 021 851 7506

Macassar clinic                 
021 851 5504
Fax: 021 851 7506

Cape Town
021 851 5504
Fax: 021 894 5051

072 804 5210

Women’s Legal Centre:

It’s a non-profit law centre that provides free legal advice and legal support to advocacy campaigns run by other organisations.

For more information contact:

Cape Town Office
Address: 7th Floor Constitution House, 124 Adderley Str. (corner of Church Street)
Tel: 021 424 5660
Media queries:
Helpdesk queries:

Lawyers for Human Rights: 

It provides free legal services to vulnerable, marginalised and indigent individuals and communities, both non-national and South African, who are victims of unlawful infringements of their constitutional rights.

For more information contact:

Address: 4th floor, Vunani Chambers, 33 Church Street, City Centre, Cape Town
Tel: 021 424 8561
Fax: 021 424 7135

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The content on this page was last updated on 3 June 2020