Get help at court

We have a duty lawyer service in many courts in Western Australia. A duty lawyer can give you advice about your legal options, how to progress your case, and what you can expect to happen in court. Depending on your situation, they can appear for you in court that day, help prepare court documents, and negotiate on your behalf.  

Duty lawyers cannot represent you at trial and they do not deal with all types of cases.

How much the duty lawyer can help you will depend on your personal situation, the urgency and seriousness of your issue, and the needs of other people using the service on the day. 

The duty lawyer will be able to explain what help they can give you. If appropriate, they can make a referral for you to have more legal advice, take an application for a grant of aid, or direct you to other services that might be able to help.

If you are unable to get help at court from a duty lawyer, you might be able to get legal advice about your problem at one of our offices.

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Can I see a duty lawyer about criminal charges?

We have duty lawyers to assist people charged with criminal offences by the police in Magistrates Court and Children’s Court locations throughout WA. If you are in prison, police lock-up, or the cells at court, you need to tell the officers if you want to speak with the duty lawyer.

Because there will often be many people wanting to speak to the duty lawyer, appointments are often short. That might mean you do not get full advice the first time you see a duty lawyer.

A fee of $20 applies to see a duty lawyer in the Magistrates Court ($5 for concession card holders). It is free to speak to the duty lawyer if you are in custody or prison, or appearing in the Children's Court.

Duty lawyers are not available for matters in the District Court, the Supreme Court (except Stirling Gardens Magistrates Court), or in front the President of the Children’s Court.  If you are in those courts and do not have a lawyer, contact us about applying for a grant of aid.

Can I see a duty lawyer about my traffic offences?

The duty lawyer can assist with traffic offences if any of the following apply:

  • you are appearing in a Magistrates Court outside of the metropolitan area  
  • you are appearing in the Children’s Court (in any location)
  • the duty lawyer is assisting you with criminal charges at the same time, or
  • you are in a general arrest/remand list and a sentence of imprisonment is a possible maximum penalty for one of your traffic offences.

If you are not sure, you can ask to see the duty lawyer on the day. Please understand that the duty lawyer might not be able to help with your traffic charges. 

Is there a duty lawyer at the Family Court?

We have a duty lawyer service at the Family Court of WA in Perth, called Family Court Services.  The service helps people with immediate family law needs, who need urgent advice or who have a court date that day and are not able to access a lawyer in time.  The focus of Family Court Services is on parenting arrangements and child contact, including advice on recovery orders.  It may help with property settlement issues where families are experiencing family violence.

Family Court Services also provides FASS (Family Advocacy and Support Service).  FASS provides:

  • legal and social support services for families who are experiencing family violence, and
  • advice, and in some cases court representation, to help families manage their legal matters in family court, protection and care and family violence restraining order proceedings.
Video: Family Advocacy and Support Service
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FASS duty lawyer and social support services are provided by Legal Aid WA on Family Court Magistrates Circuits in regional areas including Geraldton, Kalgoorlie, Broome, Albany and Bunbury.

Can I see a duty lawyer about protection and care proceedings?

We have a duty lawyer service at the Perth Children’s Court to assist people respond to applications for child protection orders made by the Department of Communities - Child Protection and Family Support.  We mainly work with the parents of the children, but can sometimes help other people involved in the case if they have a direct and significant interest in the wellbeing of the child.

If your matter is not being heard in Perth, see if your local Legal Aid WA office provides assistance with protection and care applications, including duty lawyer services.

Can a duty lawyer help me apply for a Family Violence Restraining Order (FVRO)?

There is a duty lawyer from our Domestic Violence Legal Unit (DVLU) available at Perth Magistrates Court each morning.  The DVLU duty lawyer can give advice and assistance to people in situations of family violence about applying for an FVRO.

A DVLU duty lawyer attends Joondalup Magistrates Court to assist FVRO applicants if an objection to the interim FVRO has been lodged with the court.

If your matter is not being heard in Perth, see if your local Legal Aid WA office provides assistance with FVRO applications, including duty lawyer services.


Reviewed: 12 April 2018

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The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.