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Legal Services Mapping Project

New Zealanders with legal problems are often under real time and money pressure.

Law. Mark Henaghan in library
Professor Mark Henaghan, Dean of the Faculty of Law at Otago

Finding the right kind of help can be difficult and for those with little money and few connections, the struggle can be overwhelming.

The Legal Services Mapping Project at the University of Otago will be the tangible result of earlier research which found that many people who were going to court without a lawyer had found it difficult to access free or low-cost services. This was frustrating for them, particularly when they were told to “get a lawyer” but had been unable to find one they could afford or who specialised in the area of law concerned. We also found that court staff and judges telling people to “get a lawyer” were unable to point them to useful free or low-cost services and often knew they were sending them into an “advice desert”.

We want to discover where gaps currently exist in access to legal services.

This project, run with help from the University of Otago Legal Issues Centre aims to map the location across New Zealand of free or low-cost legal services. The online resource will show what services are offered at these locations, in what areas of law and who is offering them. It will identify different areas of law such as criminal, family, and ACC, and will direct individuals and organisations to the right sort of assistance quickly and easily.

We will be also be asking lawyers who are registered to provide legal aid if they are actually taking clients on legal aid. This is because we know from previous research that many lawyers are no longer working for legal aid rates. We are also asking NGO’s and government agencies what services they provide. The online map will show where services exist and where they are absent. We will then be able to inform these agencies so that gaps can be filled.

More and better support services are needed and you can make a difference with your gift helping service providers reach those most in need.