The legal aid system in Australia is relatively complex compared with many Commonwealth nations, largely due to the way in which it is organised differently by the respective state authorities. The criteria under which South Australians receive legal aid, for example, can be very different from those found in Victoria or Western Australia.
Nevertheless, in cases where you might face a prosecution by the state authorities in South Australia, accessing free legal aid can be essential if you are unable to afford professional legal advice. That is all well and good for certain legal proceedings, but where do you obtain low-cost or free legal opinions for matters that might never get to court? What if you want a lawyer's opinion on a boundary dispute with your neighbour in Whyalla, or require legal help with sorting out probate following the death of a loved one in Adelaide, for instance? In some cases, South Australians simply want to know where they stand from a trained lawyer following an accident at work or in a public place. Where can you turn?
These days, a number of Legal Services Commissions in the country use online chat services to help ordinary people communicate with a lawyer, including the state commission in South Australia. According to ABC, between April 2014 and March 2015 no fewer than 80,000 calls were received from members of the public by the South Australian Legal Services Commission. Following this upsurge in people seeking help, they initiated an online chatting app which allows users to simply type in their legal questions and receive an answer. Although it might not offer a fully rounded legal opinion, the service helps ordinary South Australians to understand where they stand legally on everyday matters. The commission has said that, in their trial of the chat service, many people who used it were at work, stating that they felt more comfortable typing their questions and receiving written responses than doing so verbally over the phone.
Of course, there are legal firms in nearly every town and city of the state—from Mount Gambier to Port Lincoln—that you can turn to, as well. However, some people are put off asking for legal advice from one of these firms for fear of a large bill coming their way. Although this can be the case in some areas of criminal and corporate law, when it comes to things like personal injury claims, many practices offer their initial advice freely. Indeed, some specialist legal firms in South Australia only make their money by winning cases on a no win, no fee basis. Along with injury claims, such practices also tend to handle unfair dismissal cases and those associated with rights to residency, too. Why not sound out a legal opinion if it is offered freely? You might just be able to resolve a long-standing dispute if you do.