We are responsible for managing legal aid in Scotland, which involves helping people who would not otherwise be able to afford it, to get the help of a solicitor, and sometimes an advocate, for their legal problems.
A large part of our job is to decide who should get legal aid. If it is granted, legal aid is used to pay solicitors, counsel – advocates and solicitor advocates – and other costs of the case. The solicitor could be in private practice, employed by SLAB or in a law centre. Our work includes:
- Advising Scottish Ministers on how legal aid is working, and ways to develop it.
- Managing the Legal Aid Fund and deciding whether to grant applications for legal aid.
- Deciding if people have to pay towards the cost of civil legal assistance, then collecting these amounts.
- Assessing solicitors’ and advocates’ accounts for legal aid work, and paying them for the work they have done.
- Registering firms and solicitors who do legal assistance work and making sure these firms and solicitors maintain high standards, including funding civil quality assurance which is run by the Law Society of Scotland and SLAB.
- Investigating and tackling fraud and abuse of legal aid.
- Developing a network of SLAB employed solicitors who offer criminal legal advice and representation as part of the Public Defence Solicitors’ Office network, and also, through our Civil Legal Assistance Offices, developing advice services on civil matters using SLAB employed solicitors.
- Exploring new ways of delivering legal aid services and working with justice system partners to improve the justice system.
- Grant funding advice services including the in-court advice service across Scotland.
Our vision is to provide access to justice for those eligible and in need of it, in a cost-effective manner.
As well as employing the full time equivalent of around 300 staff within SLAB in Edinburgh we employ staff in the Public Defence Solicitors’ Offices (PDSO) and the Civil Legal Assistance Offices (CLAO), throughout Scotland.