It is very likely that most people in their lives run into a situation or a question that would best be solved with legal expertise. This is true for both wealthy and not-so-wealthy. Especially in situations where a person with small income is faced with a sudden and surprising need of help, the threshold for getting expert help can be high.
The Finnish legal aid system is a way of the Finnish state to offer an option and possibility for a person with small income to receive the legal help they need without getting bankrupt.
The need for legal aid is already often estimated in the first meeting between the client and their legal counsel, after which if the basic requirements are fulfilled the application for legal aid on behalf of the client can be made.
Legal aid can be granted to a person with a home in Finland, or with a home in an another EU-Member State or a state belonging to the EFTA (European Free Trade Area). Legal aid can also be granted to any person whose issue is being handled by the Finnish court system, if there are special circumstances. Legal aid then will not usually be granted to proceedings outside of the Finnish court system (“ulkoprosessuaalinen asia”), these are for example the division of patrimony as a result of a divorce, or an issue being handled only by the Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kansaneläkelaitos, “Kela”).
This means that there are no nationality-requirements for getting legal aid, for example a asylum seeker or a EU-citizen temporarily residing in Finland can freely apply for legal aid and receive it.
Legal aid is granted either completely without a part to be paid by the client, meaning that the use of legal counsel is completely free for the client, or with a deductible, meaning that the client will have to pay some of the fees resulting from legal aid with the Finnish state paying for a certain percentage.
The decision of the “extent” of the legal aid will be made according to the economic situation of the applicant (client). The main factor within the client’s economic situation is their “usable income”, which means the amount of money the applicant has at their disposal each month after all the regular payments they make. In determining the amount and extent of legal aid the marital status of the applicant is also taken into account.
As a main rule, an unmarried person is granted the “full” legal aid without a deductible if their monthly usable income are 600euro or less. A married person will receive the full legal aid if their monthly usable income are 550euro or less.
Legal aid will not be granted at all to a person, married or otherwise, if their monthly usable income are over 1 300euro, meaning that if the amount of monthly usable income is less than 1 300euro legal aid can be granted at least with a deductible. The amount of the deductible will be progressively a smaller percentage the lower the monthly usable income is.
As a general rule, social benefits (excluding housing aid “asumistuki”) or income support will not be taken into account when calculating the monthly usable income.
If and when all of this sounds complicated, there is a calculating form on the website of Finnish ministry of justice which gives quite accurate estimates on whether and what kind of legal aid you would qualify for.
Companies and other legal persons are are excluded from receiving legal aid. This means that even if a company is in legal trouble it cannot receive legal aid for its issue.
Also, if the person needing legal aid has insurance covering legal expenses, that will be primary in relation to the granting of legal aid. You will then only receive legal aid to the deductible of the insurance covering legal expenses. Many already have such insurances usually bundled with home insurance, so you might not need to apply for it separately.
Legal aid covers the necessary actions taken by legal counsel in dealing with your issue, counseling in court and other authorities, and exemption from some fees related to the processing of the case as laid down in law.
The best thing about the legal aid scheme is that it offers a possibility for lower-income people to access legal help and expertise needed for their problem, to whom such would be impossible or unreasonable without the aid.
However, the granting of legal aid is tied to the situation and the process, where then the best option on receiving legal aid and the best help for your issue is to ask your legal counsel in your first meeting about legal aid. These first meetings are fully free in case there is no resulting assignment, or atleast at Autio Associates they are.