Court Referral for Legal Assistance

The Federal Court has made arrangements with the State and Territory Bars to enable it to refer a party to a lawyer for legal assistance in certain circumstances.

There are a number of guidelines that apply to the Scheme. These are summarised below.

  • The Scheme does not cover people who are considering whether or not they should commence a proceeding in the Federal Court. Only litigants who are already parties to Federal Court proceedings will be considered for a referral.
  • A Judge of the Court decides whether or not you will be referred for legal assistance. Registry staff cannot make a referral. You are not entitled to apply to the Court for a referral for legal assistance. However, you may wish to raise the issue with the Judge at a directions hearing.
  • Judges will only make a referral when it is in the interests of justice to do so. Judges will take into account factors such as your financial situation, the type and complexity of the proceeding and whether you have access to other sources of legal assistance.
  • The Judge may specify the scope of the referral. For example, it may be a referral to obtain written advice, draft a particular document or appear at a hearing. There is no obligation for a Pro Bono lawyer to continue to act for you once the particular task is completed.
  • If a Judge makes a referral under the Scheme a Judicial Registrar of the Court will attempt to find a Pro Bono lawyer prepared to act for you and if successful, will provide copies of Court documents to the lawyer.
  • Pro Bono lawyers are not obliged to accept the referral. If a lawyer does accept a referral then they will not charge you any professional fee unless you have entered into a costs agreement. However, there may be other expenses, such as transcript, photocopying or expert report fees which you will have to pay.
  • If you win the case, the Court may order the other side to pay the Pro Bono lawyer’s fees.
  • A Pro Bono lawyer may cease to act for you if you agree in writing or if a Judicial Registrar gives the lawyer leave to do so.

Self-represented litigants

If you are a self-represented litigant and you wish to apply for assistance under the Scheme you should raise the matter with the Judge during your next directions hearing. If the matter is urgent contact the Duty Registrar.

Court staff cannot provide legal advice about potential proceedings which you may wish to commence in the Court. A list of sources of free or low-cost legal advice is available from the Registry and on this website.


If you have a particular query regarding the Scheme you can:

  • attend your local Registry in person;
  • telephone your local Registry;
  • email your local Registry.

Contact details for each Registry are available on this website.