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Audit information

Lawyers appointed to Legal Aid NSW panels may be audited by Legal Aid NSW under Section 52B(1) of the Legal Aid Commission Act, 1979 (NSW) (the Act). Any one or more of the following may be audited:

  • claims for payment
  • compliance with practice standards
  • compliance with the terms and conditions of a panel service agreement
  • compliance with Legal Aid NSW guidelines, policies and delegations
  • substantial or unresolved complaints concerning service delivery

Audits are conducted by staff in the Professional Practices Branch.

Panel lawyer audit strategy

The Legal Aid NSW audit strategy for panel lawyers has been reviewed. A revised audit strategy is now in place effective from 1 August 2017.

Audit types

Spot Checks

These audits validate requirements applicable to claims, practice standards or means test. Panel lawyers are asked to provide supporting documentation to validate a requirement for current or finalised matters. The majority of audits undertaken by Professional Practices are spot check audits.

File Reviews

These audits are more comprehensive and look at an entire matter. Panel lawyers are asked to produce complete files in legally aided matters. Audits include all claims and issues and will be based on the file, any other information that the private lawyer supplies and any other information that is available to Professional Practices as a result of investigations, e.g. court listing information. These audits are usually conducted on finalised matters.

What do we audit?

A number of areas may be targeted for audit. Such areas include but are not limited to:

Claims

All claims may be audited. However from time to time, audits may focus on the following types of claims:

  • Court Time: includes claims for court time in family, criminal and civil law. Lawyers are required to provide copies of their court/tribunal attendance notes detailing the date of attendance, the type of appearance, start and finish times, the name of the lawyer in attendance and a brief summary of the appearance or outcome.
  • Disbursements: includes claims for commercial agent fees, conduct money, travel expenses, general disbursements and expert reports. Lawyers are required to provide copies of receipts, cheque butts, office ledgers or other verifying evidence such as file notes, fax transmission records and copies of telephone accounts, vehicle logs and photocopier logs.
  • Conferences: this includes claims for client and witness conferences. Lawyers are required to provide copies of clear and legible file notes detailing date of conference, name of person spoken to, length of the conference, and relevant details of the conversation

Practice Standard requirements

Practice Standards for each panel, set out the standards that are expected for lawyers undertaking legal aid work. Any aspect of the Practice Standards may be audited. However, from time to time, audits may focus on lawyers responsibilities to Clients and to Legal Aid NSW.

For example each set of practice standards requires lawyers to:

  • meet with the client as early as possible in the process and communicate with the client in a way that the client understands using language appropriate to the age, maturity, education and cultural background of the client
  • attend all court events in a timely manner
  • keep clear and legible file notes of telephone conversations, conferences, interviews
  • record all court attendances
  • submit file outcomes

Panel lawyers should be familiar with the Practice Standards applicable to their panel.

Complaints

  • Substantial or unresolved complaints concerning service delivery

Means information

Managing non-compliance

In the event that an audit identifies a breach of the practice standards, service agreement or Legal Aid NSW policies and guidelines, a range of sanctions may be considered, depending on the severity of the non-compliance. Sanctions may include:

  • Warning letters
  • Further audits
  • Refund of claims
  • Referral to the Monitoring Committee which can result in removal or suspension from panels
  • Ceasing the assignment of legal aid work
  • Referral to the Legal Services Commissioner, NSW Bar Association or Law Society of NSW

Have I been selected for audit?

Lawyers selected for audit will be notified via the Notice Board in Grants Online and will be requested to provide documents in support of the area selected for audit.

Lawyers are reminded to use the Respond to Audit Request option, which is available through the audit notification letter they receive. Practitioners can also respond through the Submit Audit Correspondence function on Grants Online.

To ensure uploads are attached correctly to a response, lawyers should click on the Upload button, after selecting each attachment.

Don't ignore audit requests

Audit requests require panel lawyers to respond within a given timeframe and failure to do so could result in serious consequences including the removal of the lawyer from panels to which they are appointed.

If you are unable to provide a response within the allocated timeframe or if you have any questions about an audit request you receive, please contact Professional Practices by responding to the audit request via Grants Online.

Ongoing audit activity

Professional Practices will continue to provide regular updates in relation to ongoing audit activity in the monthly newsletter, Legal Aid News.

Audit FAQs

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions we receive from panel lawyers throughout the audit process. Whilst they are not all audit specific, they are included as they come up quite regularly as a result of the conduct of an audit. Click on your question to reveal the answer.

More information

For further information in relation to audit contact the Senior Audit and Review Officer by e-mail at audits@legalaid.nsw.gov.au.

Audit Resources