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Free legal advice available in France

If you are in any situation where you may need to get involved in legal proceedings, there are ways to get at least some initial advice for free.

Every department in France has a Conseil départemental de l’accès au droit (CDAD), a body made up of legal professionals, local politicians and associations, and its aim is to make sure everyone has access to the law.

It organises places and times for you to meet a legal expert who can explain your rights and duties, whether you have the right to legal aid, whether there any associations that might be able to help you, and advise on how and if you should proceed.

Each department is organised differently. You can find out what is on offer either by asking at your mairie or by putting CDAD and the name of your department into a search engine.

The resulting website will tell you when and where and with whom you can have a free consultation. It will also say if you need to book in advance.

For example, in the Gers there is a telephone number you can ring on Tuesdays and Thursdays for free advice; you can see an avocat on Friday mornings; see a notaire one Monday one afternoon a month; and there is a way of getting a coupon to organise a free consultation with a huissier (bailiff).

In some departments there are associations which organise free legal advice within the local CDAD.

One of the biggest is InfoDroits at infoloi.com, which was set up 20 years ago in the south west and has 100 places where you can get advice across the Lot-et-Garonne, Landes, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Gironde, Dordogne and Gers.

For each department there is a telephone number to make an appointment.

Anne-Lise Noyer is manager of the Gironde and Dordogne branch and said the advice is given by juristes: “Juristes have been trained in the law for five years and have a wide know-ledge of legal issues.

“They will be able to tell you what the possibilities are in your situation. If they don’t have an answer, they will be able to research your case.

“The idea is to promote access to the law for everyone and our service is open to anyone who needs help.

“It is free. The association is funded by the state, conseil départemental and mairies. Some advice sessions happen every week, and others once a month. You have to ring up the number for your area to make an appointment.”

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