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Last updated on December 21st, 2022 at 07:05 pm
Flexing legal muscles is one of the most preferred ways to solve conflicts in Germany. At the same time, hiring a lawyer can be very expensive. If you are a foreigner living here and suddenly found yourself in a pickle, here are some ways to get legal aid at an affordable cost or free legal advice in Germany.
Did you know that in 1919, Germany became one of the first countries to introduce a free legal support system for its financially challenged citizens? Free legal aid in Germany still exists and is available for all residents, including foreign citizens.
In this post, you can learn how to go about getting legal help in Germany if you:
- have limited funds, and
- are not a member of a trade union (Gewerkschaft) and
- do not have legal protection insurance (Rechtsschutzversicherung)
1) Preventive measures to avoid excessive legal costs in Germany
You can avoid the inordinate legal costs in the first place by taking some preventive measures as soon as you start living in Germany. Here are some common ways locals deal with unexpected legal costs in their lifetime.
1.1) Contracts Check Services
Sometimes German contracts can be trappy by design. Even native German speakers tend to hire lawyers to get big contracts (such as real estate or rental) verified before signing.
Backtracking on a signed agreement is next to impossible in Germany. A lawyer can check for any possible clauses that could come back to bite you in the ass later. You can search for and hire a lawyer in Germany on your own.
Another option is to use an online contract check service by ‘YourXpert.de’.
You can upload your contract online and YourXpert team will assign a lawyer to investigate your contract for –
- any potential pitfalls in the contract
- any missing and unfavourable clauses
- identify any legally doubtful or improvable passages
- make suggestions for improving the wording and clauses in your favour
This contract check service starts at 84 EUR (for comparison our real estate lawyer charged 300 EUR/hr).
Get your contract verified here:
1.2) Legal Protection Insurance
Get preemptive and arm yourself with a Rechtsschutzversicherung aka legal protection insurance in Germany. When you sign up for legal protection in Germany, you pay a small monthly fee to your provider. If you ever run into an unexpected legal issue, they cover the financial costs of legal disputes. This insurance is important for both self-employed and private persons.
GetSafe offers expat-friendly legal protection in Germany for private persons – in English – with unlimited coverage!
If you are self-employed, you must take out legal protection insurance specific to your profession. Hiscox offers legal protection for professionals working in nearly 200+ traditional and modern professions.
1.3) Private Liability Insurance
Nearly 85% of Germans have this insurance. Private liability insurance protects you from any third-party claims if you accidentally damage something. As per German law, one is liable for an unlimited amount of damages AND with all personal assets.
A costly mistake in Germany can easily turn into lifelong bankruptcy. Private liability insurance usually costs under 10 EUR per month (for the entire family) and prevents exactly this type of sudden shitshow.
If you want an English-speaking service, you can sign up with GetSafe’s private liability insurance or read this article to compare several more German providers.
If you neither have any legal protection insurance nor funds to hire a lawyer in Germany, then here is how you can apply for free legal aid in Germany.
2. What is legal aid in Germany?
Legal aid in Germany consists of Beratungshilfe and/or Prozesskostenhilfe.
Beratungshilfe basically means ‘legal advice assistance’ in German. With Beratungshilfe you can receive expert legal advice in Germany at a very low cost.
If legal advice alone is not enough and you need further help to defend your rights against a third party, then legal aid in Germany also covers lawyer’s fees for representation in a court (Prozesskostenhilfe).
3. Which issues are covered by German legal aid?
Legal aid in Germany is granted for all legal matters. This includes the following areas:
• Civil law (e.g. sales law, landlord and tenant cases, claims for damages, road accidents, neighbourly disputes, divorce and maintenance cases, other family matters, inheritance disputes, insurance claims);
• Labour law (e.g. termination of labour contracts);
• Administrative law (e.g. Federal Training Assistance Act (BAFöG), tax law, school and university law, trade law);
• Social law (e.g. “Hartz IV” basic income for job seekers, statutory insurance for health, pensions and accidents);
• Tax law (e.g. matters related to child benefits under the Income Tax Act);
• Constitutional law (e.g. constitutional complaints due to violations of basic rights).
4. Who is eligible for legal aid in Germany?
If you meet the eligibility criteria as determined by Germany’s Civil Procedure Code, you could receive free legal advice in Germany.
- Anyone who doesn’t have enough funds to pay the court costs, or can pay them only in part or in instalments, is eligible for legal aid. This includes support for legal advice (Beratungshilfe) as well as court costs (Prozesskostenhilfe).
- Anyone who has no assets and whose available income amounts to less than €20 will be fully exempt from court costs and the cost of their own lawyer.
- Non-German citizens are also eligible for legal help in Germany.
5. Which costs are covered by legal aid in Germany?
Depending on your available income, legal aid will either completely or partially cover your share of the court costs and the cost of your own lawyer. However, legal aid in Germany does not cover any costs you may have to pay to your opponent, particularly the cost of the opposing lawyer.
In most cases, therefore, whoever loses the case must cover the costs incurred by the opposing party, even if they have been granted legal aid.
Labour court disputes are the only exception to this rule.
6. How to apply for Beratungshilfe in Germany
Here are the steps as described by Bundes Justizamt for anyone applying for legal aid in Germany.
6.1) Make an appointment at your local Amtsgericht
First, find your Amtsgericht (local district court). You can do this by Googling “Amtsgericht + German city (where you are registered as a resident.)
You should make an appointment with a Rechtspfleger (paralegal) at the Rechtsantragstelle in your Amtsgericht.
If you find yourself in an urgent situation, you can go without an appointment. However, you should show up early and be prepared to wait for your turn.
6.2) Apply there for a Beratungshilfeschein
Beratungshilfeschein is a legal aid certificate that covers your lawyer’s consultation fee.
Before issuing a Beratungshilfeschein, the district court assesses whether you are financially unable to raise the funds for hiring a lawyer in Germany.
For this, you have to prepare the following documents-
- A completely filled application form called Antrag auf Bewilligung von Beratungshilfe.You can also download this form online here.
- Proof of personal and financial circumstances, current income documents (e.g. wage statement, unemployment benefit or assistance certificate, etc.), as well as all monthly expenses must be submitted in your application.
6.3) Make an appointment with a lawyer
Find a lawyer who has expertise in the required field of law (Strafrecht, Mietrecht, Vertragsrecht, etc..) and make an appointment with them to get legal advice. You can also find an English-speaking lawyer or one who speaks your native language.
7) What is the cost of legal aid in Germany?
Legal aid in Germany is free of charge for eligible recipients.
Generally speaking, a lawyer cannot charge anything above €15 from a person who has legal aid in Germany. In some cases, the lawyer declines the €15 payment if the person seeking help cannot afford it.
However, there are some exceptions to this.
1. If the court case was successful and you end up benefiting financially from winning the case (e.g. recovering a debt, receiving compensation for damages or inheriting money) — then the adviser can apply to the local court to withdraw the legal aid and demand payment of a previously agreed-upon amount.
Your lawyer must inform you of this before they take you on as a client.
2. If you submit your application after you have received legal advice from a lawyer, you may also have to pay more than €15.
For example, if the local court denies your application and you have already received legal advice, then the lawyer can demand their regular consultation fee. In this case, too, your lawyer must inform you of this before they take you on as a client.
3. Legal aid in Germany does not cover any compensation that you might have to pay to a third party. If you make a wrongful demand of a third party and they hire a lawyer to defend themselves, you may be required to pay the resulting lawyer fees of that party.
4. Finally, you may have to pay legal fees if you provide inaccurate information in your application. In case of a fraudulent application, the local court can withdraw the grant within one year and demand you to pay the legal fee in full.
8) What special laws apply to Hamburg, Bremen and Berlin?
These cities have different procedures to provide free legal advice to low-income people.
Hamburg: Legal advice in Hamburg is provided by the public legal information and conciliation office aka Öffentliche Rechtsauskunfts- und Vergleichsstelle (ÖRA).
Bremen: In Bremen, legal aid is provided by the chambers of labour (Arbeitnehmerkammer).
Berlin: To get legal aid in Berlin, you can choose between a public legal advice system and the legal aid scheme described above.
9) Some other ways to get legal counsel in Germany
You can seek low-cost or free legal advice in Germany or representation in court using the following resources if you have limited means or a low income.
9.1) Trade unions or non-profit organisations
If you are a member of a trade union or professional organisation then you would be able to get free legal advice through them. Some examples of such organisations are as follows:
- AGIV Vereinigte Angestelltenhilfe e.V. – Legal advice for salaried employees in Germany
- Mieterschutzbund – Legal advice for tenants in Germany
- Vermieterschutzverein – Legal advice for landlords in Germany
- Bauherrenschutzhund – Legal advice for private house owners and home builders in Germany
- Caritas: Legal advice for people with disabilities
- Frauenhauskoordinierung e.V. – Legal support, safe houses and protection for women in a vulnerable situations (i.e. domestic violence, stalking)
- Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency (FADA) – Counselling and initial legal assessment for individuals experiencing workplace bullying, mobbing and discrimination. In some cases, affected individuals can invoke the General Anti-Discrimination Act (Allgemeines Gleichbehandlungsgesetz – AGG), in cases of discrimination due to race or ethnic origin, gender, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual identity.
Verbraucherzentralen are the consumer associations in Germany. 16 federal states have consumer associations that offer advice and information on consumer protection issues, help with legal problems and represent the interests of consumers at the state level.
Students at certain universities can get free legal advice in Germany from their universities too. If you are a student in need of legal counsel, then check the website of your city’s Studentenwerk.
9.4) Use an online legal service provider platform
You can use online legal service provider platforms such as YourXpert and get quick legal advice at reasonable fixed rates. You might not be able to find a free lawyer in Germany, but certainly faster and more affordable than consulting a lawyer in your city centre.
If you speak even basic German these services can be helpful in urgent cases. However, most of these platforms have some English-speaking legal experts in their database.
Read this post to learn step by step guide to finding an English-speaking lawyer in Germany on YourXpert.
You can use the form below and describe your situation (and get a free budget estimate).Use a free translation tool such as Deepl to translate any text into German. It’s not always 100% accurate but works pretty well for a free tool.
So have you ever taken any legal aid in Germany? Or have you had any experience with a legal dispute here? How did you deal with it? Share it in the comments below.
Disclaimer: This page may include affiliate links. They do not cost you anything but I might earn a small income if you decide to use one of my recommended partners. Thank you for your support to help keep this platform growing!
How can I obtain legal aid? You have to make an application. You can obtain the proper form directly from the court or find it on the website of the relevant court. To learn which court is responsible for your case, check gerichtsverzeichnis.de .Can I get a free lawyer in Germany? ›
Legal aid in Germany is free of charge for eligible recipients. Generally speaking, a lawyer cannot charge anything above €15 from a person who has legal aid in Germany. In some cases, the lawyer declines the €15 payment if the person seeking help cannot afford it.How do I take legal action in Germany? ›
Generally a claim must be filed in writing at the court that has jurisdiction. However, if the local court has jurisdiction for the proceedings, a claim can be registered orally at the court office (Geschäftsstelle des Amtsgerichts). The claim can be registered at the office of any local court.Are you entitled to a lawyer in Germany? ›
Legal aid in criminal procedures
The entitlement of an accused to have counsel assigned in cases of mandatory legal representation is irrespective of indigence. The court-assigned defence lawyer is entitled to claim fees from the state budget.
Foreign lawyers can only practise in Germany in accordance with the principles explained in Question 3. Without permission, lawyers cannot advise, in particular on German law, and represent clients in German courts.Who pays legal fees in Germany? ›
The German system of civil litigation costs is based on the principle that the losing party must pay all costs and fees incurred by the winning party. In case of a partial success, the costs are split between the parties according to the success rate (Section 91 ZPO).What is the average hourly rate for a lawyer in Germany? ›
Our hourly rates range from 260,00 € to 350,00 € plus VAT (in Germany 19 %, but the applicable VAT-Law always depends on the case at hand and the location of the client).How is German law different from American law? ›
I would say the main difference is that Germany has a civil law system, whereas the U.S has a common law system.What is the statute of limitations in Germany? ›
Germany. In Germany, the statute of limitations on crimes varies by type of crime, with the highest statute of limitation being 30 years for voluntary manslaughter (Totschlag). Murder, genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression have no statute of limitations.How long does law take in Germany? ›
Degree Duration: How Long Does It Take to Study Law in Germany? It takes approximately 7-11 years to complete a law degree and get admitted to the German Bar Association.
The official professional title of a German lawyer is Rechtsanwalt (male) oder Rechtsanwältin (female). Only fully qualified German lawyers who have passed both legal exams are entitled to refer to themselves as “Rechtsanwalt” or – in short – “Anwalt”.What is the most important law in Germany? ›
The Basic Law or "Grundgesetz" is the constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany. It includes the most fundamental rights that determine the way society is organised in Germany. No other law may contradict the Basic Law.Can my lawyer represent me in another country? ›
Coordination with Attorneys in the United States: Attorneys from the United States may not represent you in foreign courts unless they are admitted to practice before them.Is a US law degree valid in Europe? ›
No. To practise law in any European country you need to study law in that country, in local language(s).Does US law apply internationally? ›
In addition to laws in the host country, some U.S. laws govern the conduct of activities in foreign countries. The following information is intended to highlight some of the more significant laws that you need to consider when conducting an activity abroad.Are lawyers in demand in Germany? ›
Law degrees in Germany have higher salaries and a better job market than law degrees in the US. The average German lawyer earns 120,000 euros per year and has a 96% employment rate after graduation. The German legal system is world-renowned for its complexity and the quality of its law graduates.How much does it cost to go to court in Germany? ›
|sum in dispute EUR amount of your claim||Court fees||Lawyer fees 1.3 fee court hearings evidence|
|up to 1000.00||159.00||104.00|
|up to 1500.00||213.00||149.50|
|up to 2,000.00||267.00||195.00|
|up to 3,000.00||324.00||261.30|
According to German law, a finder's fee can be claimed by anyone who safely returns a lost item to its owner. It is between 3 per cent and 5 per cent of the value of the object, meaning the 51-year-old could have claimed between €480 and €800 for the good deed.How much does it cost to sue someone in Germany? ›
The court fees are calculated upon the amount of money you are seeking by the complaint. The higher the sum, the higher the court fee is. For instance, in order to file a complaint for 5.000,- EUR a court fee of 438,- EUR has to be paid in advance, while for a claim of 1.000,- EUR the court fee is only 159,- EUR.Which job has highest salary in Germany? ›
Doctors are the highest-paid group in Germany
In Germany, doctors were the highest-paid profession in 2022. That is according to the annual salary report conducted by the recruitment platform Stepstone, which considered wage data from 561.761 jobs from January 2021 to November 2022.
Switzerland is at the top of our list of countries that reward their lawyers the best. With an average annual salary of $260,739.How much does it cost to live in Germany? ›
The average cost of living in Germany in 2023
As a basic estimate, you can expect your total costs to be between €1200 – €3000 per month as an individual living in Germany. At the cheaper end of this range, you would likely be living in a flatshare outside of the city centre.
Belgium, Denmark and Germany set 16 years as the minimum age for purchasing beverages containing less than 1.2 % of distilled alcohol and 18 years for buying spirits (more than 1.2 % of distilled alcohol). Sweden set the minimum age for purchasing beverages with more than 3.5 % of alcohol at 20 years.Can you hold German and American citizenship? ›
A child born to an American parent and a German parent acquires both American and German citizenship at birth, regardless of place of birth, if the parents satisfy the jus soli or jus sanguinis requirements of their respective countries.Can an American gain German citizenship? ›
To be eligible for naturalization, a person has to have lived legally in Germany for at least eight years and possess the appropriate residence permit. Foreigners who have successfully completed an integration course are eligible for naturalization after seven years.What is the 12 year rule in Germany? ›
At a German research institution researchers are generally allowed to be employed with a limited contract for a maximum of 12 years (medicine: 15 years), a maximum of 6 years before the doctorate.How long before a debt is written off in Germany? ›
Limitation periods under German law
The general limitation period is 10 years. For many contracts, however, a limitation period of 3 years applies. Different limitation periods apply to certain claims, such as transport.
If you intend to stay in Germany permanently or for more than 90 days, you have to apply for a national visa (long stay). This type of visa has to be applied for if you want to join a family member living in Germany or if you are interested to study or work in Germany.How many years does it take to get residency in Germany? ›
To be eligible for this permit, you must have lived in Germany for at least five years (or three years if you are married to a German citizen). You must also be able to provide proof of your employment, financial resources, and German language skills.Is law taught in English in Germany? ›
Top universities and colleges in Germany offer great English-taught Bachelor of Laws (L.L.B.) degrees to choose from. Many universities in Germany offer study programmes taught in English. Before starting a programme, you need to have a basic knowledge of the English language.
In Germany, the court structure is divided between ordinary jurisdiction and specialised courts. The ordinary jurisdiction consists of the civil and criminal jurisdiction. The specialised courts are the administrative courts, the finance courts, the labour courts and the social courts.What is a judge called in Germany? ›
To begin this post, the German word for “judge” (a person who decides cases in court) is called “Richter” (m.). In sports, such a judge is often referred to as “Kampfrichter” or “Schiedsrichter”.Is Germany innocent until proven guilty? ›
There is no such thing as a jury trial in Germany and judges take on a more active role in court proceedings. Court procedures are otherwise similar to a jury trial in the USA. Under German law the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty.What is the German word for live? ›
by Expath Language School. The German words “leben” and “wohnen” are both used to express where one lives.Is Health Care Free in Germany? ›
Technically, no country has free healthcare, since you have to pay for your medical expenses somehow. In the case of Germany, German residents pay for health insurance every month, therefore it is not free. You have to pay for health insurance whether or not you get sick.Do Germans have freedom of speech? ›
The Federal Republic of Germany guarantees freedom of speech, expression, and opinion to its citizens as per Article 5 of the constitution.How hard is it to get a German citizenship? ›
German Citizenship Requirements for Naturalization
You must prove German language proficiency of at least B1. You must be financially able to support yourself and your family without any help from the state. You must be a law-abiding citizen with no criminal record. You must pass a citizenship test.
You should contact your country's embassy or consulate and ask about their procedures for filing lawsuits against people who are citizens of other countries. This process can take longer than just asking at home because there is more red tape involved with international matters than there would be domestic.Can a US citizen sue a foreign citizen? ›
Yes, in both federal and state courts IF jurisdictional criteria are met—they're human beings, you know, and the law recognizes certain basic rights, INCLUDING THE RIGHT TO SUE IN APPROPRIATE CIRCUMSTANCES, to all human beings, not only to US citizens.Do law degrees transfer to other countries? ›
A law degree abroad can set you up for a career in international law, but remember, law degrees don't always translate over. Each country, and in some places each state or province, will have different rules on practicing law.
The short answer is, yes, the majority of US employers will accept your international degree. However, there may be additional steps that you need to take as an international applicant that domestic applicants don't have to worry about.Can an American be a lawyer in Europe? ›
While work depends on the setting, American lawyers find work overseas working in the office of a U.S. law firm or as an attorney in a law firm abroad. American lawyers may also work for U.S. multinational companies as the local legal liaison overseas.Which US states accept foreign law degrees? ›
New York and California specifically operate a relatively open policy in permitting foreign law graduates or lawyers to sit their bar examination and do not impose restrictions to admission on grounds of nationality or residence.What happens if an American citizen is murdered in another country? ›
When an U.S. citizen dies abroad, the Bureau of Consular Affairs assists the family and friends. The Bureau of Consular Affairs attempts to locate and inform the next-of-kin of the U.S. citizen's death.Can Americans be prosecuted for crimes abroad? ›
Federal law provides “extraterritorial jurisdiction” over certain sex offenses against children. Extraterritorial jurisdiction is the legal authority of the United States to prosecute criminal conduct that took place outside its borders.What happens if a U.S. citizen commits a crime in another country? ›
If you commit a serious crime overseas, there is a high probability that you will be extradited. Extradition is the process in which one nation or state surrenders a suspected criminal to another nation or state. Extradition is regulated by treaties.Can an American lawyer work in Germany? ›
Foreign lawyers can only practise in Germany in accordance with the principles explained in Question 3. Without permission, lawyers cannot advise, in particular on German law, and represent clients in German courts.Is law degree free in Germany? ›
There are many reasons why Germany is one of the most attractive destinations for international students. And one of them is the fact that public universities don't charge tuition fees — and this applies to all students, regardless of their nationality.Is law free in Germany for international students? ›
There are many reasons why Germany is one of the most attractive destinations for international students. And one of them is the fact that public universities don't charge tuition fees — and this applies to all students, regardless of their nationality.Are German universities free for foreigners? ›
Everyone can study in Germany tuition-free!
That's right: Germans, Europeans, and all non-Europeans can study in Germany free of charge - without tuition fees. It does not matter if you are from the EU or EEA. This applies to almost all study programmes at public universities.
In Germany, attorney-client communication is not privileged as such. Rather, lawyers have the obligation and the right to not disclose confidential information. The Civil Procedure Code does not explicitly rule on the question of whether attorney-client communication held by the client is also protected.What is an attorney called in Germany? ›
The official professional title of a German lawyer is Rechtsanwalt (male) oder Rechtsanwältin (female). Only fully qualified German lawyers who have passed both legal exams are entitled to refer to themselves as “Rechtsanwalt” or – in short – “Anwalt”.Is college free in Germany for US citizens? ›
In 2014, Germany officially eliminated tuition for most bachelor's and many master's degree students, regardless of country of origin. Students must still consider administrative fees, the cost of living, and the expenses required to fund the visa process, but going to college in Germany is nominally free to all.Can Americans study law in Germany? ›
Prospective law students in Germany, who come from countries outside of the EU/EEA, will have to apply for a student visa to be able to study in Germany. The German student visa requirements generally include: Visa application documents (e.g., filled application form, valid passport, photographs).Is Germany cheaper for international students? ›
Not only can you study for free in Germany, but it is also a pretty affordable country. The average costs of living for students range between 700 - 1,000 EUR/month, including accommodation. Find out more about expenses (including health insurance) for students in Germany.Can an American go to college in Germany? ›
The US students who want to study in Germany must apply for a temporary residence permit. First, you must register your address of residence in Germany and collect the required funds to cover the cost of living and studying if you haven't yet. Once you do that you're ready to apply.Do you need to speak German to study in Germany for free? ›
Yes and no. Students are not required to speak German to study in Germany. However, knowledge of the language will certainly make life in Germany easier. Most universities offer a range of courses taught in English, and many Germans also know at least some basic English phrases.Can you go to college in Germany without speaking German? ›
5. Do I need to speak German? The language of instruction at most universities in Germany is German. All students undertaking a German-taught program will need to be able to demonstrate a firm knowledge of the language, either by means of a language test result or by taking a preparatory course.Can US attorneys work in Europe? ›
While work depends on the setting, American lawyers find work overseas working in the office of a U.S. law firm or as an attorney in a law firm abroad. American lawyers may also work for U.S. multinational companies as the local legal liaison overseas.