The more complex the society, the more numerous the legal problems where individuals need professional assistance. It is often necessary to retain the services of counsel for court proceedings, for settlement negotiations and for the drafting of documents. Legal aid is there to give individuals the possibility to obtain assistance for legal matters fully or partially at the expense of the state. In Finland legal aid covers all sorts of legal matters.
However, legal aid is usually not granted if the applicant has legal expenses insurance that covers the matter at hand.
In criminal proceedings, the defendant is under certain circumstances provided with a public defender at the expense of the state, regardless of his or her financial status. The victim of serious violent crime or sexual crime may be provided with a trial counsel at the expense of the state, regardless of his or her financial status.
Legal aid is not available to companies or corporations.
In matters pending abroad, legal aid covers the costs of legal advice.
In court proceedings, legal aid is offered by Public Legal Aid Attorneys, Advocates and other lawyers; in other matters, legal aid is offered by Public Legal Aid Attorneys. These work in State Legal Aid Offices. The offices are normally located in the same municipalities as the District Courts.
A pertinent Ministry of Justice brochure Information on legal aid is available also in English.