The Civil Litigation Assistance Scheme

The Civil Litigation Assistance Scheme (CLAS) helps people run civil litigation cases in court. The CLAS helps pay for legal costs, including legal representation, in cases where a grant of aid is not normally an option.

In return, if you receive funding from the CLAS you must pay Legal Aid WA 20% of any settlement or court judgment you receive, and amounts you are able to recover from the other parties for your legal costs.

The CLAS is subject to both means and merits tests. Applications for the CLAS funding must be made by a lawyer for their client.

This information explains how the CLAS works. Find out:

  • who can apply to the CLAS
  • how payments are made, and
  • how to apply for the CLAS.

Who does the CLAS cover? 

You can be helped under the CLAS if you:

  • are a natural person (not a corporation or similar) and a permanent resident of WA
  • have commenced, or propose to commence, court proceedings in WA
  • have an eligible cause of action that arose in WA, 
  • satisfy both the means test and merits test for CLAS funding, and
  • have a lawyer from our Civil Law Panel who is willing to act for you.
What types of matters (causes of action) are eligible for the CLAS?

Matters that can be funded under the CLAS include claims relating to:

  • dependency/inheritance issues
  • breach of contract
  • insurance claims
  • appeals against Supreme Court or District Court decisions about one of those claims.
  • public liability.

This is not an exhaustive list. 

In very limited circumstances consideration may be given to funding 

  • personal injury
  • medical negligence.

However submissions will need to address why a disbursements only grant is not appropriate to resolve the matter.

The CLAS does not cover
  • family law disputes
  • criminal charges
  • immigration cases
  • commercial disputes
  • environmental matters
  • defamation cases
  • prerogative writs
  • workers’ compensation.
What are the means and merit tests?

Your application must include all information about your financial circumstances. You will only be granted funding under the CLAS if you cannot reasonably meet the expected costs of the case yourself. Generally, applicants who have a gross annual family income below $80,000 will meet the means test.

The merits test considers the following factors:

  • the total funds that are available for the CLAS
  • the likelihood of your claim succeeding in court
  • what it will cost to help you under the CLAS, compared to the potential benefit you might receive if you win the case
  • whether or not the defendant/respondent will be able to pay the damages and costs awarded if the claim is successful
  • whether you would be advised to start or continue legal action if the CLAS funding was not available
  • whether an ‘ordinary prudent self-funding litigant’ would risk their own funds in similar litigation.

How are my legal costs paid by the CLAS?

The CLAS can pay for your legal costs and disbursements, including barrister fees, for work done on your case.  Work done by lawyers will be paid at the hourly rates set by the Supreme Court's Scale of Costs. The CLAS never pays to cover the legal costs of the other party. 

Funding is approved in stages. Funding for additional stages will only be provided if the means and merit tests continue to be met.

The general stages of funding are:

  • Advice, investigation, negotiations and reporting on the claim’s legal merit.
  • Starting court proceedings, up to the end of the first pre-trial conference.
  • Preparing for and attending at mediation (if applicable).
  • Continued representation, up to the end of the second pre-trial conference (if applicable).
  • Continued representation from the pre-trial conference to the end of the trial.

How can I apply for CLAS funding?

We do not accept applications made directly by members of the public.

Applications for the CLAS can only be considered if they are made by a lawyer on our Civil Law Panel who is willing to act for you. If you think you may be eligible to apply for the CLAS, you should contact a suitable lawyer for legal advice about your claim and to discuss making an application to the CLAS.

You must read the CLAS Conditions of Assistance before you sign your application.

Does it cost anything to get funding under the CLAS?

There is no charge to submit an application to the CLAS, but the CLAS will not pay for any expenses involved in making the application.

There are conditions to receiving funding from the CLAS, which includes making payments to Legal Aid WA. If your application for the CLAS funding is approved and your claim succeeds in any way, you must pay 20 percent of the value of any judgment or settlement you receive to Legal Aid WA.

If you recover any money for the cost of work that was paid for by the CLAS (for example, if you are awarded legal costs after trial), that money must be paid to Legal Aid WA.

If your claim is unsuccessful and you are ordered to pay any of the defendant’s legal costs, you have to pay those yourself.




Reviewed: 27 April 2018


The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.