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
- Deciding whether to grant applications for legal aid
- Deciding if people have to pay towards the cost of 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 overseeing the quality of work delivered through quality assurance arrangements
- Investigating and tackling fraud and abuse of legal aid
- Managing a network of SLAB employed solicitors providing criminal legal advice and representation (Public Defence Solicitors’ Office and Solicitor Contact Line (police station advice only) and advice services on civil matters (Civil Legal Assistance Office)
- Administering grants to projects delivering a range of advice services
- Monitoring and advising Scottish Ministers on the availability and accessibility of legal services in Scotland
- Carrying out research
- Developing policy on our administration of the system.
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 Solicitor Contact Line, as well as Public Defence Solicitors’ Offices (PDSO) and the Civil Legal Assistance Offices (CLAO), throughout Scotland.