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The Community Legal Service Fund and Charges

What is the Community Legal Service Fund?


What is the Community Legal Service Fund?

The Community Legal Service Fund helps people who cannot afford legal services, as long as they meet certain conditions. The Community Legal Service Fund is run by the Legal Services Commission, which replaced the Legal Aid Board. The Legal Services Commission directs resources at the problems that concern people most, and through its contracts with providers makes sure that services of recognised quality go to those who really need them.

You can see if you are eligible for legal aid by using the Legal Aid Calculator.  

The Legal Services Commission also runs the Criminal Defence Service, which replaced criminal legal aid in October 2000.

How do I apply?

You can apply for Community Legal Service Fund help from legal advisers who have been awarded the CLS Specialist Quality Mark and who display the CLS logo.

To apply for help you will need to speak to a legal adviser - look in the CLS Legal Adviser Directory for details.
You can also find out more in the leaflet ‘A Step-by- Step Guide to Legal Aid’.

You cannot apply for CLS-funded help directly through the Legal Services Commission.

The Funding Code

The Funding Code sets out the help that the Community Legal Service Fund can provide and the requirements that you need to meet. 


Are there any charges?

Many organisations within the Community Legal Service offer some or all of their services for free; others charge for their services. You can find information about an organisation’s charges in the CLS Legal Adviser Directory.  All organisations with the Quality Mark should inform you of their charges when you first speak to them.

Community Legal Service Fund (formerly Legal Aid)

The Community Legal Service Fund helps people who cannot afford legal services, as long as they meet certain conditions.  You may be asked to pay some of the costs of your case.  Your adviser will tell you more.

Can I get legal aid?

You can use the CLS Direct Legal Aid Calculator to see if you are eligible for legal aid.

Free services

Many organisations, such as Citizens Advice Bureaux and Law Centres, offer a free service.  However, you may have to pay for some charges, such as photocopying, to cover the organisation's costs.

Free initial interview

Many organisations offer a set period (often 30 minutes) of initial free advice. For example, the Accident Line scheme offers a free initial interview with a solicitor for those who have suffered a personal injury because of an accident. The CLS Legal Adviser Directory shows which solicitors belong to the Accident Line scheme. For more details of Accident Line you can call their free telephone helpline on 1500 192939.

Fixed-fee interview

Some solicitors offer an interview (generally of 30 minutes) for a fixed fee.

Solicitors' charges

Solicitors charge in different ways, including hourly rates, fixed fees and percentage fees. At the start of the case, the solicitor must tell you about the likely cost of the case and how the charge is calculated. Throughout your case the solicitor should tell you of the costs so far.

Pro Bono

Many lawyers offer some services free of charge; this is called ‘Pro Bono’. You can find more information on Pro Bono work on these websites:

Solicitors Pro Bono Group ('LawWorks' projects)
Bar Pro Bono Unit (barristers)
Free Representation Unit (immigration and employment)

Trade unions and motoring organisations

Trade unions and motoring organisations such as the AA and the RAC offer low-cost or free legal advice to members.

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Last updated on 21 October 2019
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