Terminating aid scenarios

Scenario – failure to provide instructions

Isabel is currently seeking a 'live with' order for her children in the Family Court. Her lawyer has called you and said that Isabel is not responding to any requests to attend her office to provide further instructions nor is she providing any of the requested documents. You are not aware of any health issues or other issues that might be preventing Isabel's attendance.

Suggested action

Write to Isabel to ask her the reason for her non-attendance, and indicate that if she does not respond to you or her lawyer, her grant of aid will be terminated. If she fails to respond or the response is inadequate, the grant of aid should be terminated.

Scenario – failure to accept legal advice

Lewis commenced proceedings in the NSW Supreme Court for a medical negligence matter against a local hospital. The hospital has offered a final settlement of $40,000. Lewis's barrister advised him to accept the settlement as she says that there are no reasonable prospects of receiving an award greater than $40,000 from the court. The lawyer agrees and has repeatedly advised Lewis to accept the offer. Lewis called you and said "there is no way I am settling for anything less than $100,000."

Suggested action

Advise Lewis that given advice received from the barrister, Legal Aid NSW considers it a reasonable offer and if he does not accept the offer it is likely that the grant of aid will be terminated. You should also explain (in the notice of intention to terminate) the consequences of termination including that he will be liable for the costs of the matter including any adverse cost orders covering the period when he was legally aided. You may also ask the lawyer that he or the barrister speak to Lewis in a way that he can better understand the reason for their advice. If, however, Lewis maintains his position then the grant of aid should be terminated on the grounds that Lewis has failed to accept reasonable advice, and there is no longer merit in continuing (from a cost/benefit perspective).

Scenario – failure to co-operate in Local Court criminal matter

Ned has a grant of aid for assault proceedings in the Local Court. He lives in an apartment one block from the office of his lawyer. A plea of not guilty has been entered, and a hearing date set down. Ned's assigned lawyer calls you and says: "Despite repeated attempts, I have been unable to contact the client to obtain proper instructions prior to the hearing next week. I have arranged another appointment for him this week, but if he does not attend I will have no choice but to withdraw from the case."

Suggested action

Telephone Ned to put him on notice that if he does not attend an appointment with his lawyer as arranged his grant of aid will be terminated. File note your call/message. If there is no response write a letter to Ned to advise that aid will be terminated if he does not attend the appointment or respond to your letter within 7 days. If Ned does not respond and/or does not attend the appointment the grant of aid should be terminated for failure to co-operate with the lawyer.