Guide

Legal aid
Last updated: 1 November 2019

Advice and assistance

Advice and assistance can help with the costs of legal advice from a solicitor if you can't afford it. This could include:

  • advice on your rights and options
  • help with negotiations and paperwork
  • help if you're accused of a crime, for example advice at a police station

If your solicitor prepares a case and acts for you in court and you need help with the costs, you'll need to apply for civil, criminal or Children's Hearing legal aid.

To apply for advice and assistance you'll need to find a solicitor that does legal aid work. They'll talk you through your options, let you know if you can get advice and assistance and help you with the application process.

Who can get help

You'll usually need to show that you can't afford to pay your legal costs yourself. You may have to pay some money towards the costs of your case, or pay costs back later.

Usually you can get advice and assistance if:

  • you don't have a large amount of disposable capital (savings, shares, property and money, but not the house you live in) you could use or sell to pay for legal help
  • you receive certain benefits, such as Income Support or Jobseeker's Allowance
  • your weekly disposable income is less than a certain amount (this is the money you have left after deducting income tax, national insurance contributions and any maintenance payments you make)

Your partner's (someone you live with as a couple) disposable income and capital will also be taken into account, unless you're separated or your case involves them.

Your solicitor should tell you at the start of your case:

  • if you need to pay anything towards your legal costs (you pay this direct to your solicitor, who might let you pay in instalments)
  • whether you might have to pay out any money you keep or gain at the end of your case

What you might need to pay

Use the advice and assistance online estimator to see if you could get legal aid and what you may need to pay.

Remember that even if you can get advice and assistance, you may have to pay costs back later if you keep or gain money or property.

If you get benefits

You might qualify for advice and assistance if you get:

'Income-based' is a type of benefit you get because you're on a low income.

If you have savings

If your capital (savings and anything you own that's valuable – not your home) are worth less than £1,716 on the day you apply, you may be able to get advice and assistance (depending on your disposable income).

If your capital is worth more than £1,716, you won't be eligible for advice and assistance. Find other ways to get legal help.

Your disposable income

Your solicitor will also look at your disposable income to check that you need help with your legal costs. This depends on if you're single, live with a partner or have children.

The maximum you'll need to pay for advice and assistance is £135.

These figures are examples to show if you're likely to get advice and assistance. Your legal costs could be cheaper than this, depending on your case.

If your situation doesn't fit in with these examples, speak to a solicitor or SLAB to find out if you're eligible, the likely cost of your case and what you might need to pay.

If you're not eligible

If you can't get advice and assistance, there might be other ways to get help with your legal problem – some could be cheaper or free.

Remember, if you don't qualify for advice and assistance you may still qualify for civil, criminal or Children's Hearing legal aid.

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