A new scheme providing a free barrister service to people who do not qualify for legal aid could be extended to solicitors. The arrangement, if it goes ahead, would mean a full, free legal service for people judged to be in need of help even though their legal aid claims have been rejected. Law Society secretary-general Patrick Moss said the body would discuss the proposal with the Bar Association. The society received a letter last week from the association inviting it to provide a panel of solicitors to join the scheme. 'In principle, we obviously support this,' Mr Moss said. 'We need to find out how this scheme will work before we commit our members. Once we know that, I am sure we will be playing a role.' Free legal services are available from solicitors and barristers on an ad hoc basis, but such cases are generally referred by the Judiciary and lawyers on an informal basis. The Bar Association Free Legal Service Scheme will be formally launched on Thursday. Bar Association chairman Ronny Tong Ka-wah SC said: 'We found in the past there were a number of deserving cases, [but] for one reason or another they were not given legal aid. We feel there is a need for barristers to provide some service to ensure justice is done.' Mr Tong said he was looking forward to discussions with the Law Society on the issue, and details of the scheme would be released soon. 'Cases would be selected on the basis of whether they are of great general importance and whether there is a greater than 50 per cent chance of winning,' he said. 'We also want to help those in need, such as sandwich-class people who are not able to fund legal action.' Under the Bar Association scheme, cases will generally be taken on only after all means of obtaining legal aid have been exhausted. To date, 43 barristers have volunteered to assist the scheme. People requiring assistance must file application forms stating personal information, details about the case and why legal aid was refused. Applications will then be vetted by a voluntary management committee of barristers. Those successful will be assigned a barrister. The Bar Association has received 90 applications for assistance in the past six years - 55 of them this year. No barrister is obliged to take on any case, and no person may request a particular lawyer. Mr Tong said he hoped more barristers would volunteer to join the scheme. 'I am worried that the demand for the service may be very great,' he said. He also appealed to members of the Bar to donate funds to be used to support the scheme.