What legal advice can a charity or trade union give you?

Some charities run advice services for the people they represent, with helplines and local offices. They may give free, basic advice about legal situations, and tell people about their options. Some charities offer legal services, such as help with buying or selling a home, writing a will, or setting up a power of attorney.

Some trade unions offer services like these to their members. They may inform members of their rights and support them during employment disciplinary proceedings and cases before industrial tribunals.

Are charities and trade unions regulated?

The law in England and Wales allows anyone to provide some legal services. These include writing wills and giving general legal advice.

The Charity Commission regulates the administration and affairs of charities across England and Wales. If a charity employs a regulated lawyer, like a solicitor or a legal executive; they are also regulated as individuals by a legal regulator. You can find details of this on our Regulated lawyers pages.

This is the same for regulated lawyers that work in trade unions, as a legal regulator will also oversee them.


If you use a legal service from a charity or a trade union, you have rights to be fairly treated and to have a good level of service because of the Consumer Rights Act 2015. If the charity or trade union employs a professional person like a solicitor to carry out your legal work, you will have more protections and rights if something went wrong. You can read about these in our Regulated lawyers pages or see my options chart.

Top tip: always check with the charity or trade union whether their employees who will be doing the work for you are covered by a regulator, or belong to a membership body.

What can I do if I have a complaint about legal services that a charity or a trade union has provided?

If you are not happy with the way things are going with the charity or trade union that is doing legal work for you, do not be afraid to speak up. Contact them to explain what is going wrong, and ask them to put things right.

If you have paid for your service, you have rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 to do this. If the person who has carried out the legal work for you is a regulated person, you can make a formal complaint to them and set out exactly what you expect to happen to put things right. You should always do this in writing or on an email.

If you are still not happy with the response, you can complain to the Legal Ombudsman. If you need a hand writing a formal complaint, you can look at the Legal Ombudsman's example complaint letter.

More about how to complain

How should I pay for legal advice given by a charity or a trade union?

Some charities and trade unions may give you free basic legal advice. If they carry out legal work for you (such as arranging to represent you in court) you may be asked to pay for this. Whatever work is carried out, you should ask them up front to fully explain what the costs will be, or how they will be worked out.

More about paying for legal services