New to legal aid

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

You can only apply for legal aid through a solicitor that does legal aid work.

We do not provide legal advice.

A solicitor will:

  • talk you through your options
  • let you know if you’re likely to get legal aid
  • help you with the application process.

Before you apply for legal aid

You should consider all your options for legal help – some could be cheaper or free.

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.

Scottish Government's Guide to legal advice and legal aid

Use this guide to see who can help you if you need advice about a legal problem.

Find out about getting help with the costs of legal advice and representation in court if you can’t afford it.

Leaflets

Download leaflets with information for people applying for legal aid, opponents, young people and children.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do I need 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 criminal or civil legal assistance.

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

    We fund 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

  • 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

  • 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.

    You can apply for legal aid in Scotland as long as the courts in Scotland can deal with your case.

     

  • How can legal aid help people with communication or other support needs?

    Legal aid can include additional payments to meet the reasonable costs of communication support from the time that legal aid is in place.

    This can be for the use of language or BSL interpreters, for example.

    To help access to the services of a solicitor legal aid can also meet the cost of:

    • lengthier meeting times that clients might need
    • travel by the solicitor where the client is unable to attend the solicitor’s office due to disability or ill health.

    Solicitors do not normally need our approval to cover payments made to interpreters. In some instances they need to contact us in advance to ensure they have the funding in place for this.

    Some criminal legal aid cases are paid on a fixed fee basis. However, the payment arrangements in these cases can be changed to meet the additional support needed for clients with disabilities.

    Solicitors can apply to us for exceptional status in these fixed payment cases. If this status is granted by us, the solicitor can charge for all work on a detailed basis and this would result in the solicitor being paid for any time necessarily spent with the client.

    Some of the factors that we would take into consideration in determining whether a case is exceptional include whether the assisted person, or any witnesses, may be unable to understand the proceedings because of:

    • age
    • inadequate knowledge of English
    • mental illness
    • other mental or physical disability or otherwise.
  • 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.