Cuts to state government funding mean people facing criminal charges will no longer have access to legal aid unless they face a jail sentence.
The financially strapped service has been forced to tighten its belt even further in a move the legal fraternity claims will clog the courts with defendants forced to run their own cases.
Wollongong solicitor Danny Lagopodis said defendants would be significantly disadvantaged as they struggled to negotiate their way through the complex court system.
"The relevant and appropriate facts need to be put before the court to give a person a chance at a lighter sentence," he said. "Unless a magistrate is told all the relevant facts in a case, how can they dispense the relevant justice?"
Criminal solicitor Jeff David said any reduction in the number of solicitors within the court system was a concern.
"Solicitors not only have a duty to their clients but they are officers of the court," he said.
"They've got a duty to assist the court in doing its job. If you remove solicitors from the equation it means you're inevitably going to have more and more people appearing unrepresented and the system will clog up and slow down.
"The burden will rest with the magistrates."
He said there was always a danger of poor outcomes for people who represented themselves.
"Judicial officers will bend over backwards to offer assistance to people who are self-represented," Mr David said.
"Despite their best intentions, a person representing themselves is dealing in what is essentially a foreign world."
In addition to satisfying the means and merits test to obtain legal aid, it will now only be available to people where a jail sentence is an option or in traffic matters where there is a possibility of the person going to prison.
"This is not just a situation of simply not going to jail," Mr Lagopodis said.
"I think it's important that people are given every opportunity to walk away from the courts with no criminal convictions recorded against them.
"I think that can only sometimes be achieved when the appropriate facts are presented to the court through legal representation," Mr Lagopodis said.