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About legal aid

This page explains what legal aid is, who provides it, who decides whether or not you are eligible and how your solicitor fits into the system.

What is legal aid?

If you're getting advice from a solicitor, or your case is going to court and you need legal representation, you might be eligible for help in paying the costs through the Scottish legal aid system.

Legal aid is money provided by the government to help people who can't otherwise afford it to get legal advice and representation that they need.

So, if you're having problems with your landlord, your mortgage or your neighbours for example and you need legal advice, you might be able to get funding through the legal aid system to help with the costs.

People tend to talk about 'legal aid' as if it refers to one type of funding, however, there are several kinds of publicly funded legal assistance available. This page covers civil advice and assistance and civil legal aid .

For more information, read our page called what does legal aid cover?

Who provides legal aid?

Although the money for legal aid comes from a public fund of money provided by the government, the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) assesses applications and manages the system. SLAB deals with all civil legal aid applications across Scotland. However, they don't provide the legal aid service - that is, the advice or representation. Only solicitors can do that.

Can I get legal aid from my solicitor?

Individual solicitors can decide whether to grant you advice and assistance, but don't decide whether you should get legal aid. However, they can help you to apply for legal aid. You can only apply for advice and assistance and legal aid if you have a solicitor acting on your behalf. You can't apply for it if you're representing yourself.

Not all solicitors will take on legal aid work so you should make sure your solicitor does before they do any work on your behalf. Solicitors who are willing to take on legal aid clients usually have a legal aid sticker in their office windows or you can phone up reception and ask before you arrange a meeting. Some solicitors will give you a free initial meeting to discuss your problem so it's worth asking before you go to the meeting.

All firms of solicitors who do legal aid work have to be registered with the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB). Call SLAB on  0131 226 7061 or visit their website to find out the nearest legal aid solicitor to you.

Solicitors in law centres take on legal aid work and have lots of knowledge and expertise in dealing with cases about housing, benefits and other problems.

What if someone has applied for legal aid in a case that affects me?

If someone who is taking you to court or you or taking to court applies for legal aid, in most circumstances you should be sent a form to let you know this. You have the right to object to their application. To find out more, download the guidance for opponents leaflet from the SLAB website.

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