Since 1950 the services of solicitors and barristers have been made available for those who could not afford them by Legal Aid. Subject to a means test and a merits test for their particular case,
individual clients were provided with advice and litigation services from any solicitor willing to do the work. There was increasing pressure on the legal aid budget which was used to justify
fundamental changes in the legal aid system. Legal Aid is now available for a limited list of specified areas of law and legally-aided services are only available from solicitors and non-profit
agencies with contracts granted by the Legal Aid Agency.
Legal aid was aimed at providing those who lack sufficient resources with enough money to buy existing legal services. During the 1960s, it was increasingly realised that many disadvantaged people
had problems which existing legal services could not provide for. The voluntary sector tried to fill the gap, particularly for advice on housing, employment, immigration, welfare benefits and debt.
In the UK there exists the largest network of people's advice centres in the world, known as Citizens Advice Bureaux. CABx are promoted and assisted by the National Association of Citizens' Advice
Bureaux, known as Citizens Advice. There are also a large number of independent advice centres, many of which are represented by
However, these CABx and advice centres normally lack fully-qualified legal expertise. Law centres have been set up in some areas to try to fill the gap, although most areas still do not have one.
Typically, a law centre has at least two qualified lawyers, supported by non-legally-qualified caseworkers and administrative staff. Law centres are promoted and assisted by the Law Centres Network. The law and advice centres are funded from public and charitable sources and their services are free. All are under substantial
financial pressure and some have had to close recently.