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Legal Aid

Legal Aid

Legal aid is all forms of legal aid (both in the form of giving legal advice or in the form of being a power of attorney from someone who is litigating) that are given to people who are economically incapable so that they cannot pay fees (honorarium) to a defender or lawyer.

The provision of Legal Aid as clinical education is actually not only limited to criminal and civil majors to finally appear in court but to other majors such as the department of constitutional law, government administrative law, international law, and others that allow providing legal assistance in outside the court, for example providing legal assistance to someone who is involved in housing matters at the Office of Housing Affairs; legal assistance to a person in matters of citizenship at the immigration or justice department; legal assistance to a person concerned with international affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; even providing guidance and counseling in the field of law including the target of legal aid and so on. Based on the opinion of the Attorney General of the Republic of Indonesia that legal aid is a defense obtained by a defendant from a legal adviser when his case is examined in a preliminary examination or in the process of examining his case before a court.

According to SEMA No. 10 of 2010 concerning General Guidelines for Legal Aid, the definition of legal aid is the provision of legal services facilitated by the state through the Religious Courts, both in civil cases, lawsuits, and requests as well as criminal cases.

The definition given above provides a very broad picture of the provision of legal aid. In a seminar on the Meaning and Improvement of the Provision of Legal Aid by the Faculty of Law, the University of Indonesia in 1976, legal aid was linked to the Dharma of the three universities which were carried out in the following ways (Soekanto et al, 1983:21-22):

  1. Provide legal consultation and other services related to law.
  2. Provide counseling to the community, especially to law seekers to uphold legal norms.
  3. Provide legal assistance actively and directly equal to the community, especially to law seekers.

History of Legal Aid

The history of legal aid shows that legal aid originally started with the generosity of a group of church elites towards their followers. This generosity relationship also exists between traditional leaders and the surrounding population. A pattern of patron-client relationship patterns.

History slowly developed the concept of legal aid. The basis of “generosity” began to be changed into “rights”. Every client who is deprived of his rights may get legal assistance. The concept of legal aid has also begun to be emphasized. Legal aid has begun to be linked with political, economic, and social rights. In the last century, legal aid has begun to be associated with social and political welfare. Legal aid has started to emerge as a social movement.

In daily practice, legal aid has also begun to spread its wings, not only in capitalist countries but also in socialist countries. Third-world countries have also started to develop this legal aid. In terms of concept, it is also seen that there is a change from the legal aid which was initially individual in nature to legal aid which is structural in nature (Lubis, 1986:5-6).

In Roman times, the provision of legal aid by Patronus was only motivated by the motivation to gain influence in society. In the Middle Ages, the issue of legal aid got a new motivation as a result of the influence of Christianity, namely the desire of people to compete in giving alms in the form of helping the poor and at the same time the values ​​of glory and chivalry that were highly respected by people grew. From the French and American revolutions to modern times today. The motivation to provide legal aid is not only a sense of humanity to people who are not able to afford it, but also aspects of political rights or the rights of citizens based on the modern constitution.

Legal Aid in Europe and America (late XIX century and early XX century)

The problem of legal aid in several European countries, for example in the Netherlands, arises because certain laws are enacted. In the city of Amsterdam, a legal aid bureau from the Toynbee organization was formed in 1892, which was named Ons Huis. Such bureaus were also set up in the cities of Leiden and The Hague. The bureau provides legal consultation at a very low cost.

In Germany, the first legal consulting firm was founded in 1905 in the city of Keulen. The bureau is called Rechtsauskunftstel le fur Minderbemittleden and has provided as many as 4,000 legal consultations in the first year the bureau was formed. The bureau is subsidized by the municipality and even the Ministry of Home Affairs. This gave rise to new bureaus so that in 1916 there were approximately 675 bureaus that had provided about 1.3 million legal consultations.

In England Poor Man’s Lawyer was founded in 1889 as part of the social movement at that time, which was then followed by the formation of the Settlement Movement by C. Barnett. Then a Legal Advice Centre and Tenants Protection Committee were formed.

In the United States, a private legal aid organization was first formed in 1876, aimed at protecting the interests of German immigrants, and was named Deutsche Rechtsschutz Verein. From this organization emerged the New York Legal Aid Society. A second legal aid organization was founded in 1886 in Chicago with the aim of protecting women and children.

In Chile the organization of advocates was first formed in 1862 but died in 1868. Another private organization was founded in 1915 under the name Instituto de Abogados in 1925. The section of the Colegio which deals mainly with legal aid for the poor opened in 1932 in Santiago and gave charity to the poor.

Legal Aid in the Early XX Century

In the early twentieth century, there were attempts in the Netherlands to obtain subsidies from the government, to provide legal aid for the poor, which at that time were initiated by private organizations. At that time there were 3 types of institutions that provided legal aid for the poor, namely:

  1. Consulting bureaus (Bureaus voor Consuatie) are run by advocates who are members of the Orden van Advocaten.
  2. Labour law bureaus (Bureaus voor Arbeidsrecht) were established by trade unions or organizations.
  3. Legal assistance bureaus (Bureaus voor rechtskundige hulp) which are private organizations or institutions.

In Sweden in 1919 legal aid bureaus were opened in fifteen cities, all of which were subsidized by the State. This bureau provides diagnostic legal assistance (consultation) as well as conflict control law.

In the United States, legal aid for the poor is increasing thanks to the writings of Smith, who is famous for his book Justice and the Poor.

Legal Aid After World War II

World War II resulted in major social changes in various societies, whether involved in the war or not. The war also led to the development of pre-war thoughts.

In the field of law, especially legal aid, there have also been changes. As a result, new politics took place. Where the responsibility is placed on the State to seek equal rights to legal aid in court and out of court. This policy was implemented for the first time in England after the second world war.

The problems that occurred during the war took place, causing the treatment of new arrangements for social problems experienced by civilians and military citizens.

The military pushed for the formation of the Service Divorce Department which became part of the Law Society. Where lawyers finance the handling of divorce matters. Thus, after World War II sociologically legal aid became a social problem if certain symptoms occurred in society. These symptoms include:

  1. If in a society new social groups or classes arise that demand legal protection for their position.
  2. If new legislation arises that produces rights and obligations as well as the program.
  3. If there is a rapid and widespread social change the influence or consequences.


  • Soerjono Soekanto et al, 1983, Legal Aid A Socio-Juridical Review, Jakarta:Ghalia Indonesia.
  • Todung Mulya Lubis, 1986, Legal Aid and Structural Poverty, Jakarta: LP3ES.


by: Muchlisin Riadi
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