Legal Assistance: How to Benefit from a Lawyer When You Can't Afford One?

Information about your rights

If you are looking for information about your rights, you can first call 30 39, the single number for accessing rights, or go to a nearest “justice point”. These are reception areas that are free and open to everyone.

Several speakers are present: legal professionals, but also associations, justice conciliators, delegates of the Defender of Rights, etc. To find the “point-justice” near you, click here.

Courts and laws near you

Also free and open to all, the houses of justice and law (MJD), which are part of these “justice points”. “They offer additional services compared to point-justice.” Vous pouvez vous y rendre: pour être accompagné si vous êtes victime ou temoin d’une infraction, si vous souhaitez résoudre un conflit à l’amiable ou encore pour connaître l’état d’avancement de votre civil procedure », liste le site du Ministry of Justice.

The name “point-justice” brings together public organizations and private associations that organize free legal assistance telephone lines to inform the public about their rights and guide them in their procedures. The offices of the “justice points” are located in places belonging to the different associated organizations (communal social action centers, French services, penitentiary establishments, etc.). The organization of “punctual justice” varies depending on the territory.

The official website of the French administration.

But be careful, these associative consultations or at the “justice points” are usually limited to one hour. Although they may be able to answer some of your questions or even find solutions, they do not provide long-term support if, for example, you have to face criminal proceedings.

Cities, bar associations, consumer associations

Some cities also organize free consultations with lawyers. To find out the practical details, you must access your local council’s website.

Bar associations also organize free consultations. They are held in different places: bar headquarters, town hall, court, etc. Please note that they are sometimes reserved for people with low incomes. Learn more on your local bar association’s website before you travel.

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Some consumer associations also offer their members free consultations with a lawyer.

If you have any problems related to labor law, you can also seek help from unions. Some unions offer their members free consultations with lawyers.

A piece of advice, also look at your insurance contract.

And think about your insurance too! Many contracts provide for free consultation of lawyers, through the guarantee of legal protection.

If the dispute requires the assistance of a lawyer, contracts may provide for reimbursement of costs, through the defense resource guarantee. But the reimbursement is limited to disputes related to the area covered by the insurance and the amount of reimbursement has a limit. This is particularly the case with home, automobile and personal accident insurance contracts.

Legal assistance

Under certain conditions, mainly income, it is also possible to have access to a lawyer free of charge or at a lower cost during the proceedings initiated in which you must assert your rights. Subject to the conditions of the appeal, you may request legal assistance.

In this case, it is the State that covers the expenses of the procedure on your behalf and the expenses of the public defender assigned to you. Please note that you will not receive any money, the aid will be used to directly pay legal costs.

How does legal aid work?

The assistance does not take into account the right to plead, as well as the costs that the sentence may order you to pay.

A circular from the Minister of Justice of January 17, 2024 increased the amount of the maximum limits of resources and assets for admission to this legal aid. These new ceilings were calculated using the consumer price index updated in December 2023.

This support covers the following costs:

  • Payment of fees of lawyers, notaries and judicial commissioners;
  • The costs of summoning a justice commissioner to initiate judicial proceedings;
  • Expenses related to carrying out the judicial procedure (expertise, social investigation, etc.)
  • Expenses related to the execution of the judicial decision (costs of notification or seizure by a judicial commissioner).

For applications submitted before January 18, 2024, the maximum limits taken into account are those of 2023. In accordance with the decree of December 28, 2020, three types of maximum limits must be respected to be entitled to the free legal assistance. Exceeding even one of these limits means non-admission. These three types of limits refer to: resources, personal property and real property.

New resource caps in 2024

To be eligible for legal aid, the applicant’s reference tax income listed in the tax notice (as of 2023) must be less than or equal to €12,712 for full legal aid and €19,066 for legal aid .

For tax households composed of more than seven people, the maximum resource limits are increased by €1,445 per additional person.

Maximum limits relating to real estate assets? Real estate assets are valued without taking into account the habitual residence or the property intended for professional use.

To be eligible, the applicant must have real estate assets of less than 38,132 euros. This limit increases depending on the composition of the tax household. In addition, for tax households made up of more than seven people, the maximum resource limits are increased by 4,336 euros per additional person.

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