Changes to eligibility for assistance from Victoria Legal Aid come into effect today.
The organisation is making cuts to adjust to a government funding shortfall.
Under the changes, people charged over criminal matters can only receive assistance if they are facing jail time.
That means those charged with less serious crimes may have to represent themselves.
There are also extensive eligibility reductions for people seeking representation in family law, children's law and child protection matters.
Nicole Rich of Victoria Legal Aid says the changes are not ideal.
"Without additional investment in legal aid we're not going to be able to meet all the demand," she said.
She says clients who miss out on legal aid can still be represented by duty lawyers.
But the president of the Law Institute of Victoria, Reynah Tang, says that will not happen because duty lawyers are already swamped.
"Those people will largely be left to come before the courts themselves," he said.
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