Legal Aid Agency audits

Legal aid providers: what to expect from the LAA audit process, including peer review and contract compliance audit details.

Applies to England and Wales


As a legal aid provider you might be audited:

  • if the LAA finds anomalies in your contract management information
  • if the LAA identifies anomalies across the wider fund in an area of your firm’s work
  • if a contract manager asks for an audit
  • as a follow-up to previous interventions
  • if there’s been a period of time since your last audit

If the evidence suggests that you’re complying with contractual requirements, it’s more likely that you’ll only receive an annual visit from a contract manager and won’t be audited.

Types of error

The main types of provider error found on audit include:

  • incorrect assessments of eligibility of clients or insufficient evidence kept on file
  • incorrect claims for payment submitted through contracted work and administration (CWA)

Find out more about LAA controlled work audit trends (PDF, 255 KB, 13 pages) and look at mistakes commonly found on audits and in assessments.

Preventing audit issues (PDF, 652 KB, 37 pages) brings together a number of documents to assist providers to comply with contractual requirements and associated guidance.

Possible outcomes

The LAA may take various actions after an audit, for example:

  • LAA establish compliance and no further action will be required
  • LAA amend incorrect claims and recoup money against payments made
  • LAA issue a contract notice requesting that you make a significant improvement in your performance in the highlighted area of work over the next 6 months

We may also impose 1 of 8 possible LAA contract sanctions, including our right to suspend delivery of contract work for a specified period and/or suspend payments due to you for a designated period, ultimately terminating the contract.

Types of audit

Your firm may be subject to a number of different LAA audit and assurance types. For more information see the LAA list of audit and assurance activities (PDF, 170 KB, 6 pages)

Further details of the 2 main types of LAA audit, peer review and contract compliance audits, are outlined below.

Peer review

The independent peer review we use was developed by the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies and is managed by consultants who are independent of the LAA. Find out more in our guidance on the LAA audit independent peer review process (PDF, 410 KB, 44 pages)

Peer reviewers are experienced legal aid practitioners. They assess a random sample of a Provider’s case files using the Peer Review Criteria and Guidance and Quality Guides, and a rating system developed by the original researchers in consultation with Peer Reviewers, representatives of the Law Society and law centres and advice agencies within the not-for-profit sector.

The current members of the Peer Reviewer panel were appointed through an on open selection process, which included advertisements in public legal journals. All Peer Reviewers currently hold a Competence Plus (2) or above rating for their own work.

The Peer Reviewer writes a detailed report containing their findings including positive areas, areas for improvement and the overall quality rating.

The ratings are as follows:

  • Excellence (1)
  • Competence Plus (2)
  • Threshold Competence (3)
  • Below Competence (4)
  • Failure in Performance (5)

Quality Guides help to inform the Peer Review assessment and are useful tools for Providers to ensure best practice, and can be found in:

How to challenge a peer review result

Providers have the right to make representations where the unconfirmed peer review rating is ‘Below Competence’ (4) or ‘Failure in Performance’ (5).

Download the LAA audit peer review representation form (1b) (MS Word Document, 38.6 KB) to make a representation.

The Peer Reviewer will consider your representations and discuss these with a Senior Peer Reviewer. Together they will decide:

  • The original rating is upheld.
  • The original rating is revised.

Contact the peer review team


Published 2 July 2014
Last updated 11 November 2021 + show all updates
  1. Peer review representation form updated

  2. Independent Peer review process document and web page updated

  3. List of audit and assurance document updated

  4. List of audit and assurance document and web page updated

  5. Quality Guides for Crime, Family, Housing, Immigration & Asylum and Mental Health updated

  6. Advert for peer reviewers removed

  7. Quality Guides for Crime, Family, Housing, Immigration & Asylum and Mental Health updated

  8. LAA audit peer review representation form (1b) updated.

  9. LAA audit independent peer review process document updated.

  10. Improving Your Quality Guide in Immigration and Asylum published.

  11. Improving Your Quality Guide - Mental Health published.

  12. Peer reviewer expression of interest published.

  13. Improving Your Quality Guides for Housing and Family published.

  14. 'Preventing audit issues' document added to page.

  15. 'LAA audit independent peer review process' updated.

  16. Advert for peer reviewers added

  17. First published.