In France, the system of legal aid is decentralised and the decision to provide legal aid is made by legal aid councils located at each Court. The distribution of the money to the lawyers is made by the national Bar Council and the local Bar Association. There is no merit test for the claim, which is only rejected by the legal aid Council if there is a manifest inadmissibility or a manifest unfoundness.
All fields of law are covered by legal aid. Normally, the legal aid Council will verify the criteria of eligibility and will nominate a private lawyer who will be in charge of the file and who will start litigation.
In 2013, a controversial 35 euros tax on litigants was cancelled and a lot of people hoped that the legal aid system will be modified. Since a couple of years, legal aid has been reviewed and the majority of the reports called for substantial changes in the system. Some reports said that the budget should be doubled.
However, the reform, which just took place, has not such an ambition. The financial sources have been modified and the financial eligibility threshold has been increased.
New funding sources for legal aid replace the old legal aid contribution suppressed in 2014. It includes:
- a fraction of insurance contributions,
- a fraction of the tax paid by each person convicted by a criminal decision, and
- a fraction of the tax due by the bailiffs.
The financial eligibility threshold have been increased up to 1.000 € for full legal aid and up to 1.500 € for partial legal aid. The funds management has been entrusted to the National Bar Council. The unit value, which had not reviewed for a couple of years, has been slightly increased. The French legal aid system, which is mainly based on the work of the legal profession, was not fundamentally changed.