Guide

Legal aid

Last updated: 31 July 2017

How to apply

Once you've looked at all your options for getting help to solve your legal problem, you can apply for legal aid by:

  • finding a legal aid solicitor near you using the Scottish Legal Aid Board's (SLAB) solicitor finder tool – this may be a solicitor working in a private practice, a law centre or other advice agency, or in a Civil Legal Assistance Office
  • meeting with your chosen solicitor to discuss your legal problems – they'll advise you what kind of legal aid you can get and apply to SLAB on your behalf

Some solicitors offer a first appointment for free. You should ask about the cost when you arrange your first appointment. Your local Citizens Advice Bureau might have a list of solicitors in your area who offer free or discounted first appointments.

What to take to your solicitor appointment

Check with the solicitor before your appointment so you know exactly what to take with you.

You may need to take along information about the following for both yourself and your partner (unless you're separated or they are the person you have a legal problem with):

  • your most recent bank statements showing your income and capital or savings
  • recent wage slips, or accounts if you're self-employed
  • pension payment advice from an ex-employer or your pension or benefit book
  • current benefit award letters or notifications
  • details of all savings or accounts – bank/building society/post office statement or passbooks

If you're needing legal advice from a solicitor (e.g. to help with negotiations or give you advice on your rights and options) you apply to a legal aid solicitor.

Your solicitor will give you an application form to complete that asks about your savings and income over the past 7 days. They'll tell you right away if you can get 'advice and assistance' and if you need to pay anything towards the costs.

If you need representation at court

If legal advice and assistance doesn't solve your problem, you may need to apply for legal aid to help with the costs of your case (civil, criminal or Children's Hearing) going to court.

There's a separate application process for applying for legal aid for going to court, and SLAB will look at different parts of your situation to decide if you need help with legal costs. Your solicitor will talk through your options with you and help you apply.

Your solicitor will give you a form to complete that includes details of your income and savings. They'll then send the form to SLAB to assess your application.

It's important you read the guidance carefully and provide the relevant documents it asks you for (like proof of your address and your income). If you don't, your application could be delayed or refused.

If you're granted legal aid, SLAB will tell you if you need to pay anything towards the costs.

If you have questions about filling out the form or the types of documents it asks you for, ask your solicitor or contact SLAB.

The Scottish Legal Aid Board
Phone: 0131 226 7061
Email: general@slab.org.uk

SLAB can't give you legal advice. They can only give information on applying for legal aid. If you want advice specific to your case you'll need to speak to your solicitor.

You can get emergency help from a solicitor if you need urgent representation in court, e.g. to keep you and your children safe from domestic abuse.

However, you may need to pay for this later on and you'll still need to apply for legal aid in the normal way for any ongoing work.

Don't ask your solicitor to do anything while you're waiting for SLAB to assess your application. Legal aid won't cover the costs of any work done before it was granted, unless your solicitor has been able to secure funding to carry out the urgent steps for you.

Changing solicitor

You must have a good reason if you want to change solicitor after you're granted legal aid, such as:

  • you're moving away from the area your solicitor works
  • your solicitor is ill or has died
  • your solicitor decides to stop acting for you

If SLAB decide it's reasonable for you to change solicitor, your case will be paused until you find a new legal aid solicitor to act for you.

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Legal aid
How to apply