A civil action

In a civil action the claimant has a choice of numerous schemes one of them being the Community Legal Service, this scheme was set up by the Access to Justice Act 1999 for civil cases. "The aim of the Community Legal Service is to ensure that people can get information, advice about their legal rights and help with enforcing them.

" This provides the following facilities in civil law: General information about the law and legal system and the availability of legal services, legal advice, help in preventing or settling or otherwise resolving disputes about legal rights or duties, help in enforcing decisions by which such disputes are resolved and also help in relation to legal proceedings not relating to disputes. This act states that the scheme includes advice, assistance and representation of lawyers as well as services of non lawyers. However the money to pay for this service is met by the Community Legal Service Fund.

Community Legal Service Fund is a fixed amount of money which is set each year as part of the normal government budget. The CLS Fund is available for divorce cases, housing matters (rent arrears), welfare benefits, credit, and debt, discrimination at work, immigration, family and children. Fund is spent using a Funding code, drawn up by the Legal service Commission and approved by the Lord Chancellor, which sets out the criteria and procedures to be used when deciding whether a particular case should be funded.

It depends on how much money you have and what kind of case it is. If you are on a low income with little capital, your case may qualify for free funding. If you are better off you may be asked to pay part of the costs. People on income support or income – based job seeker's allowance, or disabled person's tax credit schemes may automatically qualify on financial grounds for some help. Take your partner's and your income details, or savings, outgoings, recent wage slips, mortgage or rent information, council tax payments and bank statements.

Your lawyer/adviser will assess your income, and will make allowances for expenses such as income tax, national insurance, and providing for dependants. What you have after these allowances is called your disposable income. If your disposable income is  84 a week or less and your disposable capital is  1000 or less, you will qualify for CLS Fund. But for higher levels of funding the income and capital limits are different from the initial help scheme and more allowances are made for expenses such as rent and mortgage.

Your disposable income for most of the higher levels of help must be below 8067 a year and your disposable capital after allowances for your dependants must normally be below 6750. For very expensive cases you may still qualify if your capital is above the limit, and there are extra allowances for pensioners on low incomes. In some special cases involving children some applicants qualify regardless of their finances. Another way to tackle a legal problem is conditional fees, conditional fees were first allowed by section 58 of the courts and Legal Services Act 1990 in personal injury, insolvency and human rights cases.

By 1998 the use of conditional fees was extended to all civil cases except family cases. Under the Access to Justice Act 1999 conditional fees form an important role of the Government strategy for funding civil cases. Conditional fees provide a new way for people to bring there cases forward. The lawyer and client agree on the fee which would normally be charged for such a case. The agreement states what the lawyers 'success fee' will be. This can be an 'uplift' of up to 100% of the agreed normal fee. If the lawyer does not win the case the client pays nothing.

However if the lawyer is successful then the client pays the normal fee plus the success fee. Most solicitors will also include a 'cap' on the success fee, which means that it cannot be more than 25% of the damages which are awarded to the successful claimant. As the success fee is an extra fee, it was not possible for the successful party to claim from the other side as part of the normal cost of the case. However, the Access to Justice Act 1999 now allows courts to order that the losing party pays the amount of the success fee to the winning party.

But you may be able to take out insurance to cover these costs. Sometimes the cost of the insurance does not have to be paid until the case ends. Sometimes you only have to pay it if you win. A further way of funding a court case is by legal insurance. Most motor insurance policies offer cover (for a supplementary small amount) to help with legal fees in cases arising from road accidents, and there are policies purely for insurance against legal cost.

Many bureaux have agreements where once a week/fortnight a solicitor will attend to give more qualified advice on legal matters. There are other places a claimant can go for legal help and these are places that offer legal assistance either by looking for someone to represent you privately or also looking for people who do Pro Bono Work. However private fees can cost from as little as 80 to as much as  300 per hour which can be very expensive if you are of low income. Although you are basically paying for a better solicitor and there is more choice available.

Pro bono work is offered as voluntary work from barristers for people who are not eligible for public funding. Normally it is carried out by newly qualified barrister who wants to gain extra experience in different areas of law. Alternatively claimants can get assistance from non lawyers such as Advice agencies there are a number of different advice schemes the main two being Law centres and Citizen's Advice Bureaux's. You can apply for contracts to do governments-funded work.

However, there are other agencies which offer specialist advice on certain topic, for example the RAC and the AA offer members some help in traffic matters, while Trade Unions will help members with legal problems, particularly in work-related matters. There are also charities, such as shelter which offers advice to people with housing problems. About 300 not-for-profit agencies have contracts to do Community Legal Service Work. The legal profession offers assistance with schemes run by solicitors which provide cheap or free advice.

However only solicitors or advice agencies holding a contract with the Legal Services Commission are able to provide advice or representation will be directly funded by the Commission. For specialist areas of law such as Family law, immigration, mental health and clinical negligence only specialist firms' are funded to do the work. If the case involves separation or divorce, the Family Mediation is there to advice. This aims to help the both parties come to some sort of agreement without going to court. There is a chance of getting financial help for this.