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|Free Legal Advice Scheme
The Free Legal Advice Scheme provides preliminary one-off legal advice to members of the public as to their legal position in genuine cases. The objective of the Scheme is to enable members of the public having genuine legal problems to have preliminary advice as to their legal position. Legal issues are explained to the client in the most basic way in order to help him to understand the nature of his problem, his rights and obligations under the law and the channels available for resolution. Volunteer lawyers are not expected to embark on any full analysis of the merits of the case or to provide a full solution. The Scheme will not offer any follow up service nor representation to the applicants. There is no means test and the service is absolutely free of charge.
The Scheme has nine Legal Advice Centres each of which is in a Home Affairs Enquiry Centre. The nine Home Affairs Enquiry Centres in which the Legal Advice Centres are operating are
- Shatin Home Affairs Enquiry Centre,
- Central and Western Home Affairs Enquiry Centre,
- Wan Chai Home Affairs Enquiry Centre,
- Tsuen Wan Home Affairs Enquiry Centre,
- Kwun Tong Home Affairs Enquiry Centre,
- Yau Tsim Mong Home Affairs Enquiry Centre,
- Island Home Affairs Enquiry Centre,
- Eastern Home Affairs Enquiry Centre and
- Wong Tai SinHome Affairs Enquiry Centre.
Wan Chai Home Affairs Enquiry Centre operates thrice a week. Central and Western Home Affairs Enquiry Centre operates twice a week whereas the other 7 Home Affairs Enquiry Centres, once a week
A person wishing to seek free legal advice from the Scheme has to attend any of our referral agencies to make an appointment to meet the volunteer lawyer at a Centre of his/her choice. At the time of making the appointment, an appointment card containing details of the date & time of the appointment and address of the Advice Centre will be given to him/her. The Free Legal Advice Scheme has 25 referral agencies (with 155 branches), including all the Home Affairs Enquiry Centres and Caritas centres.
At the time of making the appointment, staff of the District Office will take down the detail background of the case of the applicant. The case paper will then be sent to the Administration Office of the Duty Lawyer Service where the case will be vetted and processed. Suitable cases will be sent to volunteer lawyers for preparation to give advice on the day of appointment. All the details of the cases are treated with strict confidence. No appointment will be arranged for applicants who refuse to disclose details of their cases at the time of making appointment.
Interpreters will be available as necessary to assist those who cannot speak fluent English or Cantonese.
All the lawyers giving advice to members of the public through the Free Legal Advice Scheme are qualified lawyers who join the Scheme on volunteer basis. There are over 900 lawyers participating in the Scheme. Each lawyer interviews 5 cases each evening and each interview will be allocated 20 to 30 minutes.
On average an applicant should be able to meet a volunteer lawyer within eight weeks of making an appointment. For urgent cases, the Free Legal Advice Scheme will endeavour to arrange the appointments within two weeks.
Although the Free Legal Advice Scheme does not have a means test, there are guidelines in which free legal advice will be refused in the following situations:
(1) Cases involving foreign law (for example the question posed involves PRC laws);
(2) Cases involving building management, owners-incorporation; and deeds of mutual covenant.
Legal advice however will be given to individuals who are tenants/owners of a building and who come to seek advice in their individual capacity as owner/occupier/tenant of a building but not to incorporated owners or members seeking advice on behalf of incorporated owners.
(3) Cases not involving a legal problem and the applicants wish to be advised on the general procedural guidelines on, for example, how to apply for public housing, how to apply for passport in another country etc;
(4) Applicants who have been granted Legal Aid;
(5) Applicants who have already engaged private lawyers to deal with their cases;
(6) Applicants who wish to set up a business and request the volunteer lawyer to draft contract for their future use;
(7) Applicants who are officers and/or representatives of a company incorporated or registered under the Companies Ordinance Cap. 622 of the Laws of HKSAR who seek advice on behalf of the company;
(8) Applicants who are officers and/or representatives of a corporation, corporation sole and/or statutory body who seek advice on behalf of the corporation;
(9) Applicants repeatedly seeking advice from the Service concerning the same case and/or the same issues;
eg.a. Applicants are being represented by the Duty Lawyer Scheme in a Magistrates' Court.
b. Applicants request to have legal representation instead of advice;
c. Applicants are not able to produce the relevant document for the volunteer lawyer’s perusal;
d. Cases involving hypothetical questions;
e. Cases involving complicated legal issues requiring detailed studying of documents;
f. Cases have been solved or superseded by event.
g. Applicants who want the volunteer lawyer to draft letters for them and/or have their draft letter settled by volunteer lawyer.