Reader Question: I need some legal advice – what help is available free of charge?
It is possible to access free legal advice in France, but some services may be means-tested.
For a start, wherever you live, you are probably not too far from a centre in the network of points-justice, local sites where people can go for free and confidential advice on their rights, as well as help with launching legal action.
Points-justice are sometimes located at the premises of Maisons France Services, which also assist with administrative tasks, or at the mairie’s centre communal d’action sociale (a local council body dealing with access to welfare and other social rights).
Read more: What are France Services points and how can they help you?
Sometimes they are open to everyone and sometimes they are reserved for certain groups, such as young people, hospitalised people or prisoners.
In them you will find lawyers, mediators, Défenseur des droits (Defender of rights) delegates and more. The Defenseur des droits helps people who consider they have been victims of discrimination, for example.
You can find your closest point-justice using this website.
Your local mairie may also be able to organise a free consultation with a lawyer, but this service may be limited to people whose income is below a certain threshold.
If your query or request is related to consumer protection or a similar field, you may be able to arrange a free meeting with a lawyer through a consumer group; however you may be expected to pay an annual membership fee (often quite affordable). You can find out more about the main groups at this link.
If you are a union member and have an issue linked to your professional life and employment law, a union lawyer will be able to assist you.
Your local bar association (barreau des avocats in French) will likely also organise pro bono legal advice sessions, but access to these may be reserved to people who would be eligible for legal aid due to modest means (aide juridictionnelle).
If your situation relates to your car, home or personal possessions, for example, you may also be able to enquire with your insurance company if you have défense-recours or protection juridique clauses included in your contract.
Other policies including Garantie accidents de la vie also often include access to free legal advice.