The 29 Basic Principles provide a number of rights for individuals as well as obligations for governments. For example, the Basic Principles prescribe that all persons are entitled to call upon the assistance of a lawyer of their choice to assist them when confronted with criminal proceedings. The Basic Principles also state that governments should ensure the provision of sufficient funding and other resources for legal services to the poor and/or to other disadvantaged persons.
The scope of the Basic Principles is not limited to lawyers in a strict sense. The Basic Principles also apply to persons who exercise the functions of lawyers without having the formal status of lawyers. The Basic Principles are divided into eight parts: