Can I get legal aid?


Legal advice is expensive. Hourly rates for the services of high street solicitors can vary from £150 to  £300 (+VAT) - multiply that by the time it takes to resolves a complicated matter and the end result can be an almighty bill.
 
Fortunately, for certain types of cases there are number of ways to avoid having to find the full amount up front and in some circumstances you may not need to pay at all. The Legal Services Commission runs the legal aid service and provides advice and representation for two million people each year. The Community Legal Service (CLS) helps with civil legal problems such as family breakdown, debt and housing, while the Criminal Defence Service (CDS) helps people who are under criminal investigation or who are facing criminal charges.
 
Firstly, find out if you are eligible for legal aid. Although this has suffered significant cutbacks in recent years, this is still generally available for everyone for representation at police stations, and on a means-tested basis for trials at magistrates and Crown courts. Not every firm offers legal aid so you need to look for law firms offering  legal aid.
 
For civil cases, legal aid is always means tested (and the bar is pretty low) and it is no longer available at all for some types of case, such as more straightforward personal injury claims.
 
Your solicitor will be able to advise on whether you qualify and apply on your behalf.
 
Alternatively, you can check your eligibility with the Community Legal Service's online calculator which is available at http://www.communitylegaladvice.org.uk/en/legalaid/.