I've had a fair bit of experience in this area and honestly it ranges from 'wow, amazing, finally someone is helping me wow wow wow wow' to 'oh deary deary me'.
I think a massive positive has been the doing away with the 'gateway' which for the best part was not a gateway but was more liked a locked gate where someone had thrown away the key. That's probably a bit harsh. I managed to get through the gateway a few times.
Since legal aid is no longer a monopoly and we've kind of gone back to the good old days where you can just find a solicitor and they are allowed to help you, I think MUCH has improved.
I never could get my head around the Citizens Advice Bureau giving help under legal aid but I'm old so I remember a different time when they just helped you for free. So that's weird but I guess with all the cuts they've got to generate some income from somewhere.
Whilst it was a monopoly I think quality slipped and now it feels like legal aid pre 2010 (kind of). Capacity is still a big issue because they haven't opened the doors up far enough and we are not quite back to the justice for all Utopia of pre 2010 (not by a long shot) but things are certainly better. That's my honest experience.
Generally I have found legal aid for a quick 'inner and outer' like a judicial review threat for flagrant lawbreaking short and sweet. Appeals can get a bit more difficult because they go on longer.
Truly though legal aid is still the only salvation for many of us so I don't want to knock it too hard.
What I've always thought is very wrong is the way you can't be represented at a final hearing under legal aid. Parents who really don't always know what they are doing are up against LA legal reps firing out case law who've watched the movie numerous times before and that to me feels a bit 'off' frankly.
Capacity is still the biggest issue. Just because you qualify doesn't mean you will find someone with the capacity to take your case. I wonder whether that's because of all the tendering and contracts of if it's genuinely a lack of lawyers? I don't know.
Legal aid is a bit like a relationship, when it's good it's really really good and when it's not good it's just 'not the one'.