Collecting equality data: guidance for solicitors delivering legal aid

This section provides information about:

Benefits to you and your firm of collecting client equality data

Benefits of collecting equality dataCollecting and reviewing data about your clients helps you provide a service that meets your clients’ individual needs.

As well as being able to view the data at an individual client level, we can provide you with reports about the equality data your firm has collected about all your clients, so that you can get a complete picture.

Understanding more about your client base and whether they have particular needs can help you make improvements to your firm’s services.

Knowing whether there are particular groups who frequently come to you for advice can help you market your firm’s services.

More information on creating accessible services is available from the Law Society of Scotland.

Equality data is important evidence that we use to highlight issues about the operation of legal aid and to advise the Scottish Government about the reform of legal aid. Reforms will bring improvements to you and your clients.

Why we need to collect equality data?

The data also helps us to meet the Public Sector Equality Duty and our work as a listed public authority under the Equality Act 2010 (Scotland) (Specific Duties) Regulations 2012.

Currently, we receive a response to the equalities questions in only 4% of applications. This is too low and does not give us sufficient equalities data about who is applying for legal aid.

We publish high level equality data on our website that shows the demographic of people who access legal aid. This can be used by other organisations and individuals.

We do not use the equality monitoring data to make decisions about individual applications for legal aid.

What equality data do we collect?

We collect data on age, sex, disability, race (national identity and ethnic group) and care experience. We think this data is most relevant and proportionate to the services we provide.

Our privacy policy describes how we collect and use personal data, including equality data.  See our privacy policy.

Who do we collect equality data from?

In line with EHRC guidance, we aim to collect equality data from every applicant over the age of 12 years.

How to ask your clients for equality data

We understand that it can be challenging to ask your client for equality data.  People in need of help from a solicitor are generally going through a difficult time in their life and their priority is to find a solution.

However, we know from research with solicitors that people are generally willing to provide equality data when asked.

Solicitor script

Please see a script that you can use to ask your clients the equality questionsWe recommend you use this or adapt it for your own service.

Key points for asking your clients for equality data

Step 1: Share the ‘Applicant information about equality data’ guidance with your client.  This explains why we collect equality data, what equality data we collect, and how we store it.

Step 2:  When to ask for equality data:  It may be easier to ask your client for equality data at an initial meeting or soon thereafter, and at the same time that you are completing the rest of the legal aid application. How you do this depends on your service and your client, and may include:

  • using a paper copy of the declaration, or use the digital or electronic form options
  • with the help of someone else in your firm
  • in alternative formats to meet any particular needs the person may have.

Step 3: You should explain that they can answer ‘prefer not to say’. If they need assurance about how we use and store this data please use the information in this leaflet or in the ‘Applicant information about equality data’.

Step 4:  Ask your client each of the equality questions in turn and record the answers on the declaration, directly into Legal Aid Online or using whichever method suits you best. If you have some client equality data already from another source then you should check this information is still accurate and that your client agrees that the data to be shared with us.

Step 5:  Enter the equality data in Legal Aid Online, if you haven’t already done so.

Frequently asked questions with hints and tips for collecting equality data

  • When should I collect this information from my client?
  • Can I use data I get from a referral service or other source?
  • My client is worried that their equality data will be used to refuse their application for legal aid
  • Why do I need to gather this information and not SLAB?
  • Do I need to gather the data again for each application for the same client?

More information

Please contact us at for more information or to discuss our approach to equality monitoring.