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Annual Report 2010 - 2011

Services at a glance

"We provide information, legal advice, minor assistance, duty services, representation and community legal education to our clients."

This page is a snapshot of our client services.

Details about our achievements in client service delivery are summarised in the Corporate Plan and expanded upon in Section 1 of this report. Here, we provide statistics for 2010-2011. Tables showing a three year comparison are available in Appendix 7.

Information

Provided 514,060 information services, an increase of 3.3% from last year.

Our information services are free and can be accessed by the general community. Our staff can help with initial inquiries about a legal problem and legal processes, and provide written information to help clients understand their situation and the availability of legal aid. Our staff help clients work out what to do next, and the best place to go if they need further assistance.

Information over the phone is also available through LawAccess NSW, a free legal information, referral and advice service administered by the Department of Attorney General and Justice, and partly funded by Legal Aid NSW.

Legal advice and minor assistance

Provided 97,315 advice and minor assistance services, an increase of 3.9% on last year.

Legal advice is available at no cost for our clients.

Our lawyers will help clients to identify their problem, inform them of their legal rights and obligations and help them to understand what course of action can be taken.

Lawyers may also draft letters or other documents for clients and make telephone calls on their behalf to help resolve their problem. We refer to this as minor assistance.

Duty lawyer services

Provided a total of 168,007 duty services (103,630 of these were inhouse and 64,377 were by private lawyers).

Legal Aid NSW provides lawyers in various courts and tribunals throughout New South Wales.

Duty lawyers provide advice and/or representation to people appearing before the Local and Children’s Court on criminal charges. Some matters are able to be finalised on the first appearance. Otherwise the duty lawyer can seek an adjournment for further advice, to arrange a grant of aid or to allow time for further preparation.

A duty lawyer is provided to all persons in custody for a first appearance bail application.

The duty lawyer service is free of charge.

Legal Aid NSW also provides duty lawyer services for people involved in proceedings under the Family Law Act 1975 and child support legislation. These services include providing advice and information, completing standard documents, and representation based on the guidelines. These services are provided across the State in the Family and Federal Magistrates Courts.

Duty lawyer services are available for children and adults involved in care and protection matters at every specialist Children’s Court in NSW, and at many regional courts when they sit as Children’s Courts.

The duty lawyer acts for either the children or the parents (or other eligible adults) on the first day that the case is heard by the Magistrate and, wherever possible, applies for a grant of legal aid to continue to act as the lawyer for that client in the ongoing matter.

Legal Aid NSW also provides duty lawyer services for people with a mental illness, under the Mental Health Act 2007. Our Mental Health Advocacy Service provides duty services at the Mental Health Review Tribunal.

Children's lawyer Julianne Elliott talks to young people at the Children's Court, ParramattaChildren’s lawyer Julianne Elliott talks to young people at the Children’s Court, Parramatta Justice Precinct. This year, lawyers from the Children’s Legal Service provided over 12,500 duty services at NSW Children’s Courts.


Legal representation

Provided representation in 38,868 matters (12,795 inhouse and 26,073 assigned).

Legal Aid NSW provides legal representation in criminal law, family law and civil law matters to people who meet its eligibility tests. See Policies in Brief in Appendix 15.

Clients need to apply for legal aid through a private lawyer who will complete an online application or by completing our paper application form.

Generally, only people with income and assets below a certain level can obtain legal representation. Most people granted legal aid are required to pay a contribution towards the costs of their legal representation.

Publications and community legal education

Distributed 647,800 publications and increased community legal education sessions by 50.7% (see Community legal education).

We provide free publications and legal education kits to help people in New South Wales to understand their legal rights and responsibilities. A full list of publications appears in Appendix 9.

A catalogue listing our resources can be viewed on the Legal Aid NSW website under Publications.

We conduct legal education sessions at venues across the State. These sessions can be tailored to suit the needs of particular groups.

Youth hotline

Answered 20,726 calls to the hotline, advising 10,078 young people about their legal rights.

Our telephone hotline provides legal advice and information to young people under 18, and operates 9am to midnight weekdays, with a 24-hour service from Friday 9am to Sunday midnight and also on public holidays. Many of these calls facilitate the operation of the Young Offenders Act 1997 where after legal advice, young people make admissions to police and are then given cautions or referred to youth justice conferences by police, rather than being charged with offences and brought before a court.

Family dispute resolution

Held 2,486 conferences, reaching full or partial settlement in 80.5% of matters (full table in Appendix 7).

We provide family dispute resolution (FDR) conferences in family law matters to facilitate the resolution of disputes at an early stage. Parties are given the opportunity to negotiate a settlement which suits them, without the need to go to court. If a settlement is reached, consent orders may be drafted and filed in the Family Court or Federal Magistrates Court.

FDR is also available for matters in late litigation. Before legal aid is granted for parties to be represented at a final hearing, if appropriate, the parties are referred to FDR.

At least one of the parties must have a grant of legal aid before a conference is organised by Legal Aid NSW.

This year we conducted a successful trial of FDR in care and protection matters (see Family law - Major achievements).

Specialist services

Established an Early Intervention Unit in family law at the Parramatta Justice Precinct, helping people deal with their legal problems before they become more serious (see Family law - Major achievements).

Our specialist services are staffed by experts in their field. Services include the:

  • Adult Drug Court Service
  • Child Support Service
  • Children’s Legal Service (criminal matters)
  • Client Assessment and Referral Unit
  • Coronial Inquest Unit
  • Early Intervention Unit (family law)
  • Homeless Legal Outreach Program
  • Mental Health Advocacy Service
  • Mortgage Hardship Service
  • Older Persons’ Legal and Education Program
  • Prisoners Legal Service
  • Veterans’ Advocacy Service
  • Youth Drug and Alcohol Court Service

Senior lawyer Marvia Sorensen advocates that her client is an eligible and appropriate participant for the Drug Court ProgramSenior lawyer Marvia Sorensen advocates that her client is an eligible and appropriate participant for the Drug Court Program at the new Hunter Drug Court. For more information, see Criminal law - Major achievements.