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Annual Report 2010 - 2011

Our office systems

Greater efficiency

We made our systems and processes more efficient and innovative – achieving our Corporate Plan goals and resulting in better services for clients.

Major achievements

Priority 3: Integrated services

From the time of introducing a new grants management system (ATLAS) in 2009, we have been enhancing ATLAS and the related case management system (CASES) to make it easier for staff to provide an effective service to lawyers and clients. In November 2010, we upgraded ATLAS and the related Grants Online system addressing suggestions and issues raised by staff and private lawyers.

Staff can now record how clients who receive legal advice found out about legal aid, and where the clients were referred after the advice. This will assist with reporting under the National Partnership Agreement outcome of ensuring clients receive ‘joined up’ services.

Data and analysis

Priority 4: Organisational flexibility

A research team from the University of New South Wales helped us to gather data collected by state and commonwealth agencies on factors which influence the demand for Legal Aid NSW services. This will improve our ability to provide timely and appropriate responses to changing community legal needs. Reporting needs have been identified and a range of agencies are being contacted to identify data that may be shared with Legal Aid NSW.

Analysis of increasing crime expenditure

Priority 4: Organisational flexibility

Legal Aid NSW has experienced increasing expenditure in criminal law matters over a number of years but has struggled to explain the reasons for this increase.

An internal analysis commissioned by the CEO in March 2011 found that the single largest driver of crime expenditure for Legal Aid NSW is payments to private lawyers for an increasing number of days of court attendance in indictable matters, and in particular, District Court trials. This reflects the increase in the average length of District Court trials finalised by verdict: 8.67 days in 2010, compared to 7.84 days in 2009 and 7.75 days in 2008. In summary, the average length of trials increased by approximately one day from 2009 to 2010.

While the number of persons with District Court matters has been relatively stable, Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research data indicates increases in the number of persons charged in particular offence categories, with significant increases in sexual assault, robbery, drug offences, theft and break and enter. These increases in particular offence categories correlate with trends in increasing Legal Aid NSW expenditure.

Legal Aid NSW will use this information to inform future planning and funding negotiations.

Policy review and program evaluation

Priority 1: Social inclusion

We reviewed the Legal Aid NSW means test and contribution policy to consider how the policies align with contemporary concepts of social and economic disadvantage, with the aim to incorporate social inclusion principles. A final report will be released later in 2011. A review of civil law policies continued, to incorporate social inclusion into the civil law policy framework.

We have surveyed over 400 people to date, as part of a client survey to determine social exclusion indicators. The indicators will be used to determine whether an applicant for legal aid is at risk of social exclusion. This will help us to develop client policies that can more effectively target those people at risk of social exclusion.

Based on recommendations from an independent review of the Older Persons’ Legal and Education Program, we improved education programs and legal services to older people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities, Aboriginal older people, and older people living in isolated regions.

The fee scales paid in all civil law matters and the funding model used in Commonwealth family law matters were reviewed to simplify them, achieve consistency across our three practices, and make the process more transparent for private lawyers. The outcomes of these reviews will be considered in 2011-2012.

During 2010-2011, the Board considered outcomes of program and service reviews, including a review of procedures for allocating criminal law duty and casework to private lawyers and a review of the Family Dispute Resolution Service. These reviews provided useful recommendations for improvements.

Planning ahead

Year ahead

Develop indicators of social exclusion and continue to review client policies in the context of a social inclusion framework.

Complete the means test and contribution policy review and begin implementing its recommendations.

Engaging our staff in change

Priority 4: Organisational flexibility

Staff responded enthusiastically to new initiatives that will help solve work issues and help plan for the future. These included:

  • a forum for civil lawyers to find better ways of helping clients with housing, consumer protection, human rights, social security and immigration law issues (May 2011);
  • more training and seminars in employment law, issues facing prisoners, homeless people and people with a mental illness.
  • cross-divisional forums pioneered by Grants that have been highly successful in identifying and resolving systems issues for the inhouse practice, as well as for private lawyers;
  • a planning day to establish the future role of corporate services in providing legal aid services (May 2011);
  • the first “whole of office” planning day for lawyers, administrative staff, advocates and senior managers to find ways of being more responsive to the legal needs of family law clients (May 2011); and
  • staff workshops to consider and comment on the new Legal Aid NSW Plan.

Safdar Iqbal, Operations Manager, examines the changing role of technology

Safdar Iqbal, Operations Manager, Information Technology Services, examines the changing role of technology. Photo: Wayne Gale


Technology

"The IT Helpdesk took 13,901 calls with 94.8% of call resolution times meeting targeted service levels."

Information Technology played a key role in assisting the organisation to deliver better services, and to achieve Corporate Plan priorities.

Major achievements

Priority 2: Access to justice

Internet

This year Legal Aid NSW completely redeveloped its website with a focus on providing a site that is easy to use and that quickly guides the public to legal help. The website has been written in plain English and accessibility generally has been a theme. The Publications Online feature within our website has been developed so that the public can find publications readily. The new website has information in various languages as well as a searchable database of Legal Aid NSW services using Google maps.

The new website was undergoing final testing at the end of 2010-2011 and was launched soon after in August 2011.

Priority 3: Integrated services

Strategic Plan

We developed an Information and Communications Technology Strategic Plan 2011-2013, outlining initiatives and focus areas over the next three years that will support and enable Legal Aid NSW to consistently deliver on its targets.

Joined up Justice

This year we continued to work closely with other justice sector agencies, particularly the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, to integrate our case and grants management systems with JusticeLink – the courts management system across the Department of Attorney General and Justice.

We expect the first stages of the integration with JusticeLink to be implemented in the first half of 2011-2012.

Priority 4: Organisational flexibility

Infrastructure

This year we selected a new telephone system to replace the current ageing systems throughout all Legal Aid NSW offices. The new telephone system to be implemented in all Legal Aid NSW offices is based on Voice Over IP technology and will provide a complete unified communications environment for staff. Key new features for staff include support for working from any desk at any office with their telephone extension number, as well as supporting staff mobility while away from their desk or office.

Legal Aid NSW maintains its own primary data centre together with a disaster recovery data centre. This year we continued to expand the use of server virtualisation to reduce the overall operation cost of our server fleet, together with providing flexibility for operational needs.

National Legal Aid statistics website

The National Legal Aid (NLA) statistics website which is part of the NLA website has been re-developed by Legal Aid NSW to automate data uploads and to provide a common data schema for all legal aid commissions across Australia. The website allows commissions to upload data on a monthly basis. The site then automatically consolidates the data and publishes it through charts and data grids.

Audio-visual links (AVL)

All our regional locations now have video equipment connected directly to our wide area network, which allows us to remove redundant communication links, achieving significant costs savings. AVL has also resulted in significant time savings, particularly in communicating with clients in custody.

Staff can not only use dedicated video conference suites at each of our offices, they can also now video conference with other justice sector agencies directly from their desktop or laptop by using webcam technology.

Staff increased their usage of AVL services: 11,006 AVL conferences were held this year, compared with 10,409 last year and 5,813 in 2006-2007. The majority – 6,073 – were from criminal law.

Recognising the business importance of video conferencing, we also upgraded our disaster recovery site this year so that conferencing could continue uninterrupted should the Central Sydney data centre facilities become unavailable through a disaster situation.

Graph of Audio-visual links (AVL) conferences held 5 year trend

Enhancements to the Learning Management System

This year we made further enhancements to the Learning Management System to provide better services for external users of the system including integration with our grants management system so external users who already have access to use Grants Online can directly access the Learning Management System. An additional feature has been developed which allows external users to register for Legal Aid NSW conference sessions and to pay for those by credit card online using a new payment facility.

Project Management Office

Our project management practices are continually being enhanced to be in line with industry best practices to meet the needs of those for whom we undertake information technology projects.

A Project Management Office Charter was recently developed then endorsed by the ICT Steering Committee. This charter describes the Project Management Office’s function and its responsibilities to enable it to continually deliver successful projects, build project management maturity, provide transparency and also act as the Legal Aid NSW authority on project management practices.

Service Desk

Following a review of help desk services across Legal Aid NSW, this year we progressed the implementation of a Service Desk incorporating the former IT Helpdesk and Grants Support Desk. The Service Desk is a single point of call within Legal Aid NSW for staff and external business partners in relation to information technology, the use of business systems, and a range of other operational and support activities.

Planning ahead

Year ahead

Expand and integrate video and web conferencing facilities into service delivery streams.

Provide frontline staff with a range of mobility options to support their work outside the Legal Aid NSW office environment providing services at court and in remote areas through outreach programs.

Finalise the implementation of the Service Desk, providing single point of call assistance to staff and business partners on a range of support services.

Redevelop our business intelligence and management reporting systems.

Broaden our use of collaboration tools and integration with records management systems.

Upgrade software to allow lawyers to access Grants Online using iPads.

Explore ebook initiatives with legal publishers and implement a new library management system to improve access to information.

Key challenge

Providing frontline staff with a range of contemporary business tools and technologies so they can provide the best possible service to the New South Wales public, wherever the service is located.

Office enhancements

Office refurbishment included:

  • upgrading facilities in Central Sydney to make more efficient use of space;
  • new fitouts for the Information Technology, Finance and Executive areas;
  • an innovative ‘hot desk’ space for the new Family Law Early Intervention Unit at Parramatta; and
  • an accessible toilet and an automatic opening entry door for disabled staff on one floor of Central Sydney, and three more accessible toilets planned in refurbishments on other floors including the training centre.

To help keep our staff safe, security facilities were upgraded at our regional offices with fixed duress alarms installed in interview rooms.

Major achievement

Priority 3: Integrated services

Setting up the office space for the new Family Law Early Intervention Unit at Parramatta in a short timeframe, included negotiating with the Department of Attorney General and Justice to modify the space to suit a new style of operating for our legal services. We worked with staff to design and build a form of accommodation that encourages communication and provides a sense of belonging to staff.

Environmental management

Priority 3: Integrated services

We set a target to appraise 10% of records at off-site storage for destruction.

Since the roll-out of the records disposal program in March 2009, we had, by July 2010, reduced records storage from 121,000 boxes to 102,500 boxes.

This year, we appraised more than 12,000 boxes (11.75% of the total) and identified more than 10,000 boxes (10.07% of the total) for destruction. This represents a further annual saving of $38,800 in storage costs.

How we reduced our environmental footprint this year
Goal Target Achievement
Reduce electricity consumption Reduce standalone printer numbers by 75% Multifunction Device installation completed
Reducing standalone printers to be completed by end 2011
Reduce paper purchasing by 10% (main WRAPP* goal) A minimum of 85% of all copy paper by 2014 to contain recycled content
At least one recycled content option to be included as part of each publication quotation
Reduced white paper purchasing by 5.5%
NABERS** Building Energy Rating for Central Sydney office A minimum 4-star rating under the Minimum Energy Performance Standards Scheme, and/or a minimum 4-star rating under the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Scheme, or Smart Approved WaterMark products and services (for outdoor use) by 2014 Purchased dishwashers with minimum 4.5 star ratings and microwaves with 2 stars
Green electricity purchasing 6% by 2009 (NSW Govt Target) Increased from 10% to 15% from 2010 to 2011
Increase E10 fuel consumption 20% from 2007 Increased from 28% to 63% in 2010-2011
Increase vehicle Environmental Performance Rating (EPR) 12/20 by 2009-2010 (NSW Govt Target) Increased green score from 13.2/20 in 2009-2010 to 13.73/20 in 2010-2011
Carbon neutrality Carbon neutral operations by 2020 (NSW Govt Target) All of the above in progress
State Property Authority is incorporating new green clauses into all new negotiated leases

* Government Waste Reduction and Purchasing Policy.
** National Australian Built Environmental Rating System rates the operational environmental performance of buildings.

Planning ahead

Year ahead

Relocate Nowra and Wagga Wagga regional offices so that they can offer more services to our clients.

Install accessible toilets for people with a disability on three more floors in Central Sydney.

Develop a new WRAPP Plan for 2011-2013 with updated targets.

Appraise 5% of the remaining records collection in off-site storage.

Key challenge

Responding to the growth and evolution of our services and ensuring that staff have the office facilities they need to provide effective assistance to clients. The challenge will be to achieve as much as possible as economically as possible.