Duty barrister schemes


The Duty Barrister Schemes are an initiative of the New South Wales Bar Association. They were introduced to particular Local Courts to help people who cannot afford a lawyer, who do not qualify for legal aid and who have a matter before the court on the day.

If you need legal advice and want a lawyer to argue your case in court, then the Duty Barrister can help you. You have the right to represent yourself but this could mean that your case is delayed or risk not arguing your case properly.

Every day, a barrister is on ‘duty’ at the court to advise you and if appropriate represent you. All Duty Barristers are fully qualified - they are not law students. They do not work for the court or the government. They participate in the Duty Barrister Schemes because they believe that all people have the right to legal representation.

What criminal offences are covered by the Schemes?

At Local Courts, magistrates hear cases and arguments about people who have been charged with an offence. If the person is guilty then the magistrate issues some sort of ‘punishment’, for example, a fine, community service orders, jail sentence. In all instances, you can appeal the magistrate’s decision to a higher court. A Duty Barrister will advise you how to do this. It does not matter what you have been charged with. The Duty Barrister can act for you. Here are some of the offences which the Duty Barrister can handle:

  • Driving whilst under the influence of alcohol
  • Speeding and other traffic offences
  • Shop lifting
  • Drug matters
  • Domestic violence matters
  • Centrelink prosecutions

If the offence you have been charged with is not on this list, still contact the Duty Barrister. They will be able to act for you or help in some way.

What civil matters are covered by the Schemes? 

Civil cases are also covered by the scheme, such as:

  • debt recovery
  • contract disputes
  • payment for goods and services
How do the Duty Barrister Schemes work?

If you need a Duty Barrister for Criminal Matters go to the Duty Barrister Room on Level 5 of the Downing Centre.

If you need a Duty Barrister for Civil Matters go to the Duty Barrister Room on Level 7 of John Maddison Tower.

Explain simply and clearly what you have been charged with or what your case is about. Bring all forms and any evidence which you think will help you. The Duty Barrister will explain any options you have and how your case will be handled. You will also be told what you are likely to be asked by the magistrate or prosecutor. If you have been charged with a criminal offence, you will have to go into a courtroom for the magistrate to hear your case.

The Duty Barrister will present your case to the magistrate. The magistrate and prosecutor may ask you some questions before the magistrate makes a decision. The Duty Barrister will represent you in court on the day. You must go to the Duty Barrister as soon as you can so that your case can be prepared. If your case is postponed for another day, the Duty Barrister will advise you what arrangements need to be made.

There is no guarantee that the same Duty Barrister will act for you on the next occasion.

What will it cost?

There is no charge for what the Duty Barrister does for you on the day however if your matter is stood over to another date and you brief that barrister privately, There may be a cost to you.