What is the Civil Legal Assistance Office?
What is legal aid?
What are civil cases?
How can the Civil Legal Assistance Office help me?
Is there any legal work that the Civil Legal Assistance Office is not able to undertake?
What do I do if I have a complaint about the Civil Legal Assistance Office?
The Civil Legal Aid Office is an organisation set up by the Scottish Legal Aid Board to help deal with unmet legal need for people in certain areas of Scotland who are eligible for Scottish legal aid. The organisation has four offices, each employing solicitors and administrative staff to deal with the work of the office. Although the four offices in Inverness, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Lochgilphead have different remits, the basic operating principles are the same.
Where someone resident in one of the four areas served by a CLAO office wishes, or has had difficulty finding, legal assistance, the CLAO may be able to help. The work has to be a civil case – see below for an explanation of this term. CLAOs operate firstly as referral agencies, and wherever possible they will try to refer someone who needs assistance to a local service provider best suited to deal with the matter. This will usually be a solicitor, but it can also be another type of agency depending on the nature of the problem.
Where CLAO cannot refer, CLAO can determine whether they are able to take on the case, but they will not do so where the work is outwith the remit of the office, or the skills and professional competence of the solicitors who work with the office. There are some areas of work we cannot undertake – see below. We are also only able to take on cases where we have the capacity in our case load.
All solicitors and staff in the Civil Legal Assistance Offices are employees of the Scottish Legal Aid Board
Legal aid in Scotland is the method by which state funding is made available to members of the public for assistance with legal services relating to matters of Scots law. There are several different forms of legal aid, applicable to different situations. Eligibility for legal aid is different for the different types of legal aid, and so being eligible for one form of legal aid does not directly mean eligibility for others. Details about eligibility are available here. Legal aid is only available through a named solicitor, and although there can be transfers or changes of solicitor, the rules for which are beyond this guidance, you must find a solicitor willing to undertake the work for you, before you can apply for, or continue to receive, legal aid.
“Civil cases” is a very wide-ranging term, covering a huge variety of legal topics and work. Generally speaking, it can cover any topic that is not a matter of criminal law and procedure. For the Civil Legal Assistance Office, it tends to be family law, parent and child law, mental health, housing, debt, mortgage repossession, landlord and tenant, employment, discrimination, protective orders/interdicts and ASBOs that are the most common areas of civil law that we deal with.
If you are a member of the public with an unmet legal need, and are eligible for the service then we can try to assist by:
- Referring you to a suitable service provider
- By taking on your case direct
- By signposting you to other sources of help
If you are an adviser with an advice agency, we can assist by:
- Providing second tier advice to assist you with your work
- Provide training
- Provide a referral service
- Undertaking casework
Scotland has its own legal system and we are qualified only to practice in relation to such work, so while we can try to find or suggest points of assistance for people with legal problems from other jurisdictions, the help we are able to provide is very limited. As for Scottish civil legal issues, we are happy to try to refer or signpost on any matters for eligible persons, but the types of casework we can undertake for clients is limited (see “What are civil cases?” above), and in practice the most common topics which arise, and which we DO NOT undertake as solicitors (although we are happy to try and refer to other solicitors) are compensation claims, personal injury claims, professional negligence claims, and most disputes involving land and buildings. We are also unable to undertake some very specialist areas of legal practice, and any work for which Scottish legal aid is not available.
We have complaints procedures in place. These differ slightly depending on whether you have used the service generally, or whether you have been a client of the service for whom we have carried out legal work under legal aid. Click the following link to see the complaints procedure for clients and the following link for the general complaints procedure for people other than legal clients.