Justice is a universal good: even the Constitution of Kenya grants the right to legal representation by a lawyer to defendants during prosecution in the courts of law. While navigating the justice system with the help of a lawyer is no sweat, getting one is very difficult in costs, and this has locked out many of those who would be otherwise unable to afford to hire a legal counsel from accessing adequate justice initiatives.
Unfortunately, due to poverty, many people who fail to accommodate the costs of representation end up serving time in prisons awaiting legal redress when “justice too long delayed is justice denied,” as quoted by civil rights champion Martin Luther King Jr. in his famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail.
To bridge this undeniable access to justice gap, the Government of Kenya formed the National Legal Aid and Awareness Programme (NALEAP) in 2007, tasked to provide normative legal protection and other dispute resolution schemes to vulnerable groups.
For efficiency gains, NALEAP was changed to National Legal Aid Service (NLAS) after the Legal Aid Act got enacted into law in 2016. NLAS runs under the State Law Office of the Attorney General of Kenya.
Who is eligible for legal aid in Kenya?
The National Legal Aid Service of Kenya provides free legal assistance to persons unable to afford lawyer’s fees. These may include citizens, children, people with refugee status, stateless people, internally displaced persons, and victims of human trafficking.
Before getting the services of a government lawyer or legal aid, you must prove that you are financially disadvantaged by submitting income statements and declaring savings and other assets.
Which cases can the government lawyer handle?
Lawyers who represent applicants of free legal services in Kenya from the National Legal Aid Service are known as legal aid providers and act as per NLAS standards. They take cases on civil matters like property disputes, criminal suits, children’s matters like negligence and abuse, matters of public interest, and any other as approved.
Legal aid services are unavailable for companies, non-governmental organizations, public institutions, and civil societies. Also, NLAS cannot handle trials on tax evasion, bankruptcy, and defamation.
How to apply and get a government lawyer in Kenya
Follow these steps to get a lawyer from the National Legal Aid Service for legal representation in court. Thankfully, you can now apply online;
- Visit nlas.go.ke
- On the homepage, click ‘Request a service.’ You’ll get a user login popup. Click ‘Sign In’ to proceed
- On the landing page, create a new NLAS account by supplying personal details like name, email, phone number, ID number, and place of residence. Set your password, accept the terms and conditions, and hit ‘Submit’
- Your account is already created. Now log in using the details and click ‘Request a service’ again
- A form to apply for legal aid in Kenya will open. Fill out all the required case details and submit
- Success! Your application for a government lawyer has been sent to NLAS. Wait for a follow-up phone call within 48 hours
This is how to apply for legal aid in Kenya. The National Legal Aid Service (NLAS) covers the costs of actions that come with legal representation. Annually, it receives government funding and additional funding from other private foundations and donations.