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Legal aid is the help you can sometimes get when you can't afford to pay your own legal costs.

To apply for legal aid, you'll need to find a solicitor that does legal aid work.

They'll talk you through your options, let you know if you're likely to get legal aid and help you with the application process.  


You'll usually need to show that you can't afford to pay for legal help yourself and your problem is serious.

You may have to pay some money towards the legal costs of your case, or pay costs back later.

You may not need to pay anything at all, depending on your financial position and the type of legal help you need.


Before you apply for legal aid you should consider all your options for legal help – some could be cheaper or free.


 What legal aid covers

The type of legal aid you apply for depends on the type of legal help you need (you can talk about this with your solicitor):

If needed, your solicitor may be able to represent you in court for:

Useful links:

Frequently Asked Questions:

Is my case criminal or civil?

Criminal legal assistance helps people who need legal advice or representation if they have been questioned by the police or charged with a criminal offence.

 Find out more about criminal legal assistance.  

Civil legal assistance helps people to get legal advice and the help of a solicitor to resolve their problem and, if necessary, to put their civil case in court. It may be free or you may have to pay something towards it.  

Examples of civil cases:

  • divorce and other matters affecting families and children
  • trying to get compensation for injuries after an accident or for medical negligence
  • housing matters such as rent or mortgage arrears, repairs and eviction
  • debt and welfare rights
  • matters relating to immigration, nationality and asylum
  • Adults with incapacity - guardianship and intervention orders

Find out more about civil legal assistance.

 

Can I speak to someone about Legal Aid?

Yes. To find out more about legal aid you can leave a message on our Legal Aid Information line [0845 122 8686] and we will respond to your query.

If you have specific questions about your financial eligibility for legal aid you can call our Financial Assessment Unit - 0845 123 2330 (open Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5pm).

Please note that we do not provide legal advice. Calls are charged at local rate. For training and monitoring purposes calls to SLAB may be recorded.

 

Am I likely to qualify financially for advice and assistance in civil, criminal or children's cases or for civil legal aid?

You can use an eligibility estimator to work out if you are likely to qualify financially for advice and assistance in civil, criminal or children's cases or for civil legal aid in civil cases.

Legal aid is not always free, sometimes you will need to make a contribution towards the cost of your case. 

Financial eligibility is just one of the tests for legal aid, and so even if you qualify financially there are additional tests which your case will need to satisfy.

 

Can I get civil legal aid if I'm a child?

A child can apply for legal aid if you are old enough to understand why you need a solicitor to help you, and to ask a solicitor to work for you.

But you will have to go and see a solicitor first. (You can only get legal aid through a solicitor.)

Find out more 

 

Do I have to have a solicitor, or can I apply and then look for a solicitor once I have legal aid?

You must have a solicitor to apply for legal aid. Legal aid is a means of paying your solicitor or counsel to act on your behalf.

The application must be submitted by a solicitor who is registered to provide civil legal assistance.

 

How can I find a solicitor?

You can use our Solicitor Finder to get information on your nearest solicitor who offers help through legal aid, or other legal advice providers funded by SLAB.

The Civil Legal Assistance Office or other advice providers may be able to help you if you are having trouble finding a solicitor.

 

Do you need help with housing eviction, repossession, welfare benefits, debt or small claims?

The Scottish Legal Aid Board funds projects around Scotland to help people who are facing legal problems. The current projects can help with one or more of the following types of problem:

  • assistance and representation focused on the resolution of a mortgage repossession or tenancy repossession action;
  • assistance for serious debt problems;
  • assistance and representation focused on resolving welfare benefits problems;
  • information, one-off advice and signposting about civil court processes;
  • assistance and casework assistance with small claims cases to help you to solve problems before they get to court or early in the court process. 

More information  

 

What kinds of legal help are available

 

Advice and assistance

This helps pay for advice from a solicitor on any matter of Scots law, civil or criminal – for example, to try to settle a dispute for you without going to court.

As well as advising you about the matter you have raised, your solicitor can:

  • Advise you on whether you have a legal case to take forward
  • Try to negotiate with the other party to settle it
  • Advise you whether to apply for legal aid to take the matter to court
  • Write letters for you or get medical or expert reports.
  • Apply on your behalf for civil legal aid

You have to qualify financially for advice and assistance and you may need to pay a contribution towards the cost of the work done for you.

If you win or keep money in your case, you may have to pay up to the full cost of the work done for you.

Only a solicitor can grant advice and assistance.

Civil legal aid

This helps pay for your solicitor to act for you in court. It covers the preparation work, as well as the hearing itself, and can provide funding for advocates and experts if needed.

You have to qualify financially for civil legal aid and you may need to pay a contribution towards the cost of your case.

If you win or keep money in your case, you may have to pay up to the full cost of the work done for you.

Only a solicitor can apply for civil legal aid on your behalf.

Some people need only advice and assistance, others need only legal aid, and some need both.

Many people start the legal process with advice and assistance, and then move on to legal aid. If you do not qualify for advice and assistance, you may still qualify for legal aid, and vice versa – ask your solicitor about this.

 

Someone has applied for legal aid for a case in which I am a party. What can I do, and what can you tell me about their application?

If someone has applied for legal aid in a case involving you then you will normally get a letter from us telling you about this.

The letter we send you will give you all the information you are entitled to receive. It is a criminal offence for any member of our staff to tell you anything else about the application.

The letter we send you will let you know whether you can submit “representations” to us.

This means that you get a chance to tell us about anything you know which might be of interest to us in considering the application eg the applicant might have a job you think he or she has not declared, or you might have made an offer to settle the case which they have not told us about.

We produce a leaflet which tells you about the sort of things we can take into account, and those that we cannot.

If you submit representations then we need to be able to forward the information you have given to us to the applicant so that they get an opportunity to tell us their side of the story.

If you do not want us to do this, then it is unlikely we will be able to take your representations into account.

If we investigate your representations we will not be able to discuss our investigations with you, or tell you anything about what we have done.

We will notify you of any decision to grant or refuse legal aid, and you will be notified of any decision to terminate legal aid (bring the grant to an end) but we will be unable to let you know the reasons for our decision.

 

I live abroad. Can I apply for Scottish legal aid?

You can apply for advice and assistance, and civil legal aid for any case involving a matter of Scots law.

So long as the courts in Scotland can deal with your case, then you can apply for legal aid in Scotland.

 

Can my business apply for legal aid?

Legal aid can only be granted to an individual. If your case involves your limited company, or your partnership, then you are unlikely to qualify for civil legal aid.

You may be able to qualify for legal aid if you are a partner in dispute with the remaining partners in your firm, but you would not qualify if you are effectively applying for legal aid on behalf of the partnership.

A sole trader can apply for legal aid for a business debt.

 

 

You can also look at our leaflets.

Important things to bear in mind when applying for legal aid

It is important that only those who are financially eligible receive legal aid. So it is essential that the information you provide about your circumstances is complete and accurate. You must also tell us about any changes in your circumstances, where appropriate.

If we find that you have made a false statement or have held back information about either your case or your circumstances, we may stop any legal aid given to you and you may have to repay the full costs of the case. You could also face criminal charges.

We have a duty to make sure public money is properly spent and we check with the Department for Work and Pensions, councils, employers and any other relevant third party, that the information applicants give us is accurate.

National Fraud Initiative

We are required by law to protect the public funds we administer. We may share information provided to us with other bodies responsible for auditing or administering public funds, in order to prevent and detect fraud. Read More

 

 

 


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