Due to cuts by various governments legal aid is now no longer as widely available as it used to be.
There are large areas of law which simply do not qualify for legal aid at all, such as business disputes, most money disputes and conveyancing.
If a legal dispute does still qualify for legal aid there are two tests that the Legal Aid Agency generally apply before granting it. The first is the means test. Unfortunately you need only have a very modest income, savings or assets before you are excluded by the means test. Generally legal aid is now reserved for only the poorest in society. Even if your financial means allow you to qualify for legal aid there will still be an assessment of the benefits which your case may bring. In broad terms you will have to demonstrate that there is some significant benefit in pursuing your legal matter. If your case is likely to fail then the Legal Aid Agency will rarely grant legal aid.
Even if legal aid is available, only solicitors who hold the necessary contract with the Legal Aid Agency can work under it. Many solicitors have stopped offering legal aid services and there are some places where there are few, if any, legal aid solicitors. It can be quite a challenge to find a solicitor who will undertake legal aid work even if you will qualify for it.
There are a few types of legal aid, for example child care proceedings, where the means and merits test do not apply and people can automatically get legal aid. However, that does not apply to most legal disputes.