Bar Free Legal Services Scheme

(Last updated in July 2021)

Only applicants whose applications to the Legal Aid Department have formally been rejected are eligible to approach our Scheme.

The Service - General Information

1.    The Bar Free Legal Service Scheme (“BFLSS”) has been established to provide free legal advice and representation in cases where Legal Aid is not available or where the applicant is unable to afford legal assistance, and the case is thought to be one where assistance should be given.

2.    A voluntary Management Committee chaired by the Chairman of the Bar Association manages the BFLSS.  It is a sub-committee of the Hong Kong Bar Association.

3.    The BFLSS is staffed by a part-time Co-Ordinator.  If you wish to contact the Service, please do so by letter or e-mail to [email protected] or telephone no. 2137-9107.

4.    Barristers who have volunteered to help the BFLSS are placed on a panel.  The panel comprises barristers with a range of experience and specialisations.  Each of them has offered their services free of charge for 3 days or 20 hours each year.

5.    No barrister is obliged to take on a particular case under the BFLSS.  Barristers on the Panel offer their services free of charge, it may not always be possible for the BFLSS to assist.

6.    The services of a particular barrister cannot be requested nor can a list of Panel members.

7.    The BFLSS has an Advisory Board.  Members of the Advisory Board do not make decisions in individual cases but will advise on the administration of the scheme and policy issues.

Types of Cases with which the BFLSS can help

8. The BFLSS can help by putting members of the public in touch with barristers on the Panel who can:
  • give advice either by way of a written advice or opinion or in conference on a legal problem; or
  • represent them in any court or in any tribunal where legal representation is permitted.
9. Applications for advice or representation are considered by a Management Committee.  Whilst every effort will be made to offer advice or representation in an appropriate case, the resources of the BFLSS are limited and whether assistance should be given is a matter for the Committee in its sole and absolute discretion.
10. Subject to the above, the factors which will normally be taken into account when deciding whether to refer a case to a Panel member are:
Does the case appear to be one which deserves assistance?
This will involve some assessment of the merits of the applicant’s case.
Can the applicant (or his/her family) afford legal assistance?
The BFLSS is designed to help those who cannot reasonably afford the legal assistance which they need and who are not eligible for legal aid or other forms of help with legal expenses (e.g. under an insurance policy or through a union).  Applicants who are ineligible for legal aid on financial grounds must provide, in their application, a brief explanation of their financial resources (income/savings/expenditure) and those of their family or others from whom they might reasonably be expected to look for help.  Applicants who are unsure whether they are ineligible for Legal Aid or assistance from a union or under an insurance policy should check before making an application. By and large, a person who is not eligible for legal aid on financial grounds will not be eligible to seek assistance from the BFLSS.
If an Applicant has applied for Legal Aid and has been refused, either on the grounds of financial ineligibility or on the merits, he / she must provide information about the decision refusing Legal Aid and also any appeal against that decision.  Where the BFLSS determines that the Legal Aid Department may be wrong, the BFLSS will provide assistance to conduct the legal aid appeal with a view to obtaining legal aid for the applicant.  In other words, only applicants whose applications to the Legal Aid Department have formally been rejected are eligible to approach our Scheme.
Does it appear that the services of a barrister are needed?
The services that a barrister can offer may not always be the most appropriate in a particular case.  In some cases a solicitor or a welfare agency may be better equipped to help.  The principal expertise of a barrister is in representing clients at hearings in courts and tribunals; and giving specialist legal advice.  Barristers do not have the resources to carry out factual enquiries or to deal with correspondence or court procedures on a client's behalf.
What work is involved?
Members of the Panel will normally only be available to devote a maximum of three days work to a case (including pre-hearing preparatory work).  This should be enough for most types of advisory work and for representation in courts and tribunals for short cases or hearings.  But it means that the BFLSS will not be able to provide a barrister to advise on a continuing basis over a long period or to provide assistance in long cases in a court.  Assistance is more likely to be possible in more complex cases if a solicitor or other agency is involved and can deal with some aspects of the work.  Wherever possible an applicant should make an application with the assistance of a solicitor or other agency who is willing to remain involved with the case.
11. Where representation in a court or tribunal is involved, sometimes it would not be possible for a barrister to act unless a solicitor is prepared to assist.  In some cases the BFLSS may be able to find a solicitor who is prepared to act for free but that cannot be guaranteed.

Application and Assessment Procedures

12. All applications to the BFLSS must be in writing by using the BFLSS’ Application Form. The form should be completed in full; it is not sufficient to say 'see attached papers.'

Forms may be obtained via the following three channels:

  • At the Bar Secretariat of Hong Kong Bar Association at LG2 High Court, 38 Queensway, Hong Kong
  • By writing to the Co-ordinator of the BFLSS at the above address
  • By downloading the form from this webpage

The BFLSS only accepts original Application Forms.  Forms downloaded from the Scheme’s website are treated as original.  Submission by email and fax will not be entertained.

13. Photocopies of relevant documents must be submitted.  It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that there is sufficient information with the application for the case to be considered properly.  For example, you should always send copies of all the documents before the court, such as pleadings, statements, judgments/decisions as well as advice received from barristers and/or solicitors.  The BFLSS cannot and will not seek documents from any authorities / departments on behalf of Applicants.


  • Original documents
  • Cassette tapes / video tapes
  • Large quantities of documents (i.e. over 100 pages) without prior discussion.

Please note that documents submitted with applications cannot be returned.

14. The case will then be considered and a decision taken on whether to allocate it to a barrister.  Once a decision has been made and a barrister has agreed to take the case, the applicant will be informed.  Except in urgent cases the progress of an application cannot be discussed over the telephone.

15. Where further information is needed before a decision can be made, it is the responsibility of the applicant to provide the same when requested.  No decision can be taken until the information requested has been received and considered.

16. Routine acknowledgments are not sent but we will write as soon as we are able to give you a decision - which will usually be within 6 weeks.

17. If a case is urgent, for example because of approaching deadlines or hearing dates, this should be highlighted in the application.  The BFLSS will not normally be able to provide representation without at least 28 days’ notice of any Court hearing.  If assistance is needed within a shorter period, the applicant must explain why the application was not made earlier.  However there is no guarantee that the BFLSS can respond to an urgent request. Normally, the applicant will be advised to adjourn the hearing, pending BFLSS's decision.

18. If there is any significant development after an application has been submitted but before a decision has been notified - for example, a change of hearing date - the BFLSS should be notified at once.

19. The Management Committee and/or the Co-Ordinator retain an absolute discretion to refuse any application for representation or advice and exclude any liability in respect of such a refusal.  Best endeavours will be made to ensure that representation and/or advice is provided by a member of the Bar in an appropriate case.  Such members are individuals in private practice.  They provide their services voluntarily for no fee.  They are not employed by the BFLSS.  Those individuals are responsible for the quality of their advice and/or any representation which they undertake.  The BFLSS, the Management Committee and the Co-Ordinator cannot accept any responsibility whatsoever for the choice of Counsel or any advice or representation provided by them.

When a case is accepted

20. The letter from the BFLSS saying that the case is accepted will give the applicant details of the barrister allocated to deal with the case and will say what will happen next, for example that the barrister will send his/her Opinion in due course or that a meeting is required and how that should be arranged.

21. From that point onwards, the applicant should deal with the barrister direct and the BFLSS will cease to be actively involved unless there are unexpected difficulties.  If the application has been made through a solicitor or other adviser, they - and not the client - should be the channel of communication with the barrister: advisers are asked to explain this to the client.  It is also the responsibility of advisers to explain the basis on which the barrister is acting.  Applicants should understand that whilst the barristers are offering their services free of charge, this does not include payment of expenses such as court fees, photocopying and other incidental expenses.

22. The applicant or the solicitor/adviser must be prepared to provide promptly any further information/documents which the barrister requires and attend any meetings.

23. Once the case is accepted the barrister will deal with it like any other professional case.  It does sometimes happen that a Court hearing is arranged at a time when he/she is already committed to another case.  Usually there is ample notice of this and a replacement can be arranged through the Scheme in good time or the time of the hearing rearranged.  Very occasionally the problem arises at short notice.  In such a case every effort will be made to arrange to find a replacement or to rearrange the hearing date, but the BFLSS can give no absolute guarantee that that will be possible.  A barrister may also have to give up the case if ordinary professional rules prohibit him/her from acting.

24. A barrister who has taken on a case under the BFLSS may withdraw his assistance at any stage subject to good reason being given, such as the applicant's refusal to accept his advice as to how to conduct the legal proceedings, or change in the applicant's financial position.