Since 2003, the Law Society of Scotland has been responsible for the quality assurance of civil legal assistance provided by solicitors through the legal aid scheme. The Society has published a detailed Peer Review Manual to assist solicitors in fulfilling the requirements of quality assurance. It is a comprehensive guide to the quality assurance scheme, covering the process of peer review, the requirements of the scheme and current themes arising from recent reviews.
You can read our report on the Quality Assurance Scheme for Civil Legal Assistance, published in February 2021.
All firms providing civil legal aid must join a central register maintained by the Scottish Legal Aid Board and are subject to peer review in six-yearly cycles, by peer reviewers who are solicitors in practice, and who are trained as reviewers on behalf of the Society. They examine a sample of the firm's files and assess the quality of the work done by the firm according to the Society's published criteria.
The peer reviewers report to the Quality Assurance Committee of the Law Society of Scotland. The committee works to maintain and improve the quality of service and legal work provided by solicitors using legal aid, and has powers to remove firms from the register if necessary. In the cycle of reviews completed in November 2017, 91% of firms passed, with 9% of firms being required to improve procedures prior to further review before passing.
The legislative basis for the quality assurance scheme is contained in Rule C3. Its joint operation by the Law Society of Scotland and the Scottish Legal Aid Board, is governed by the Memorandum of Understanding between the two organisations.
View a flowchart of the quality assurance process.
Civil Quality Assurance Support Service
The Civil Quality Assurance Support Scheme commenced at the start of the 4th cycle. Firms failing their routine review are referred to the support service where they may request the use of a mentor. The mentor is intended to help with the improvement of procedures for firms who have failed their routine or subsequent reviews and help with the preparation leading up to further review. This service is strictly confidential.
The mentors are solicitors who have previously obtained a merit or distinction in their own review and have agreed to offer confidential advice or support to help solicitors achieve better results in a further review going forward. The focus of the service is providing support and encouraging improvements in administrative tasks.