If you find yourself in need of legal or help from an experienced solicitor, you may not be able to cover the costs especially if you are involved in a complicated case. Legal aid is one practical option to consider. Operated by the Government, legal aid provides financial support for part or the complete costs of legal services such as advice or representation.
For many individuals, accessing professional legal support can seem impossible when you cannot afford the fees, but it’s important to explore your options including legal aid. But, how do you know if you’re eligible?
In this blog, we explain all you need to know about accessing a solicitor through legal aid and how you can find the information you need. Read on for all you need to know.
What is legal aid?
Accessing legal support can be expensive and something that not everyone can afford. Legal aid is a publicly funded scheme operated by the government to allow people on low incomes to access legal advice without the fees attached. This kind of help is available for many different reasons within the two main justice areas - criminal legal aid and civil legal aid.
Am I entitled to legal aid?
It is very important to know when you are entitled to legal aid. Organisations such as the Citizen Advice Bureau can provide more information on the services that are available for you and how to navigate the system.
In order to assess your eligibility for a free solicitor, a number of areas will be looked at and you will usually need to prove the following areas:
- Your case is eligible for legal aid
- The problem is serious
- You cannot afford to pay for legal costs (although you may need to contribute to some of the costs later)
Due to major changes to legal aid made in 2013, those seeking legal aid will need to meet a means test to prove low income and the strength of your case, also known as a merits test. Your case also needs to be within the scope of legal aid.
In most cases, legal aid is provided by a law firm for civil matters although criminal offences can be covered too. Some of the most common examples for receiving legal aid include but are not limited to the following scenarios:
- You or your family are at risk of abuse or serious harm, for example, domestic violence or forced marriage
- You’re at risk of homelessness or losing your home
- You're being discriminated against
- You're taking a case to court under the Human Rights Act
For criminal cases, anyone who has been arrested is entitled to free legal advice at the police station. If the case moves on to the court and the defendant is under 18 or receiving income support, they are automatically eligible for legal aid.
How to apply for legal aid
To start the legal aid process you should check your eligibility here or speak to an advice service who can help you understand your options. Next, you will need to find a law firm that offers legal aid services and are willing to take on your case - you can still access professional and experienced legal services even if you are benefiting from legal aid.
The solicitor will be able to assess your case and see whether or not you are eligible for financial assistance based on the evidence you provide and the type of legal matter you need help with. Not all law firms and legal matters can be covered by legal aid, however, if one solicitor cannot provide the legal services you need, make sure you seek advice elsewhere. The rules about what solicitors can and can’t advise on under legal aid are really quite complicated and there is a risk, because of this, that you get incorrect advice. So, it's important that you speak to a solicitor who specialises in the particular problem you want help with.
Before you can process your legal aid claim, you will need to provide information to your solicitor about yourself, our partner and the legal claim, including:
- Your financial situation i.e any benefit you are claiming, bank statements, employment status and earnings
- Payslips, savings and spending habits
- National Insurance numbers
- Court documents
- Marriage and birth certificates (for family cases)
- Relevant letters and any other supporting documents
At ITN Solicitors, we offer a range of legal services many of which can be accessed through legal aid. Our team will work with you to find the right solution and agree to financial support wherever possible. As one of London’s best law firms, our legal team have the experience and knowledge to ensure that you achieve the best outcome for your case. Contact us today for more information.
How can I find expert lawyers near me?
When looking for a law firm that can offer the right legal advice or representation you need, it’s a good idea to find someone that specialises in your area whether that’s family law, immigration, human rights or something else.
Research is key to ensuring that you find the best option for your case and that is financially viable for you. One way to do this is by getting guidance from a legal advice organisation such as The Citizen Advice Bureau, but you can also start looking for a good law firm yourself.
Consider the following criteria:
- Experience in the legal area you’re looking for - The last thing you want is to hire someone who doesn’t have legal experience in the area you need. Always take a look at the company bio to find out where their expertise lies and find any information about the previous work they have done.
- Details about legal aid on their website - There’s no point contacting a solicitor if they do not offer legal aid support. Most law firms will include this information on their website so keep an eye out for relevant details.
- Good reviews - Just because you are seeking legal aid is doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have an expert team by your side. Always look at the reviews of any law firm you are interested in so you get a good understanding of their success and how satisfied their clients have been with their services.
- A law firm in your local area or city - Finding a law firm in your local area makes things easier especially when attending meetings.
ITN Solicitors: Client Representation and Professional Legal Services in London
At ITN Solicitors in London, we have experience handling a range of legal cases including immigration, family and child law, motoring offences and more. We understand that funding your case is not always straightforward, so we offer three funding options to suit all clients - private, legal aid and insurance.
If you’re looking for a reliable team who always go the extra mile, look no further than us. We have acted in some of the most high profile cases of recent years. Our highly skilled team offer our clients a tailored and strategic solution to even the most complex legal problem.
Get in touch with us today to discuss whether you will be eligible under the Legal Aid Scheme.