What is Legal Aid - written by Florence Donaldson - 03/01/2020



Written by Florence Donaldson, January 2020.




Legal aid was introduced to enable people on Low Incomes to have access to Legal Advice and Legal Representation in Court Proceedings.


Applying for Legal Aid


In order for Legal Costs to be paid by Public Funding an Application will have to be submitted to the Legal aid Agency at the beginning of every case. Legal aid is paid for through public funding and is Means Tested. This means that depending on Income after certain expenditures have been taken in to consideration a contribution may have to be paid towards Legal costs. When the Application has been agreed a Legal aid Certificate will be granted for the Client. In certain this will be an Emergency Certificate, these will only cover certain aspects and the Costs Limitation will be a nominal figure, depending on the case. An Application will then have to be submitted in order to receive a Substantive Certificate to cover future work.


Certificate Scopes


Legal Aid Certificates will include various Costs Limitations and Scopes to cover different aspects of the case. During the progression of the case Limitations may have been met regarding the Scopes and the Costs. Therefore various applications may need to be submitted in order to extend these. If this process is not adhered to the Certificate could be revoked and no more Costs can be claimed against it.


Statutory Charge


The Statutory Charge will apply if after the case has ended the Client recovers Monies such as compensation or a divorce settlement the Legal Costs will have to be paid out of these monies. If after Divorce the Client gains a house but no monies a charge will be placed on the House. This means that if in the future the house is sold the client will have to pay back the Legal Costs incurred during the Divorce Proceedings.




During the duration of the case Expert Opinions may need to be sought. There are many types of Expert’s that can be instructed. Permission for this must be granted by the Court and agreed by the Parties involved. Once permission has been granted Prior Authority must be obtained from the Legal Aid Agency. The Legal Aid Agency has strict guidance on the type of Expert that may be instructed and the Various Rates that they will allow the Expert to be paid.


Authority to Assess


In order to claim Costs from the Legal aid Agency at the end of each case it must state in the Final order “There is no order as to costs except a detailed assessment of the Client’s Legal aid Costs”. Sometimes there will be no authority to assess in the final Order. In these circumstances the Discharged Certificate may be used instead.

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