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.
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 October 2009, 92% of firms passed, with 8% 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.