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Annual Report 2010 - 2011

Our people

The results of the Corporate Plan were achieved by our highly qualified lawyers and advocates and efficient, client friendly administrative staff. We continually look for ways to improve our systems and support to ensure our staff can do their work more effectively.

This year, the rebranding of Human Resources to ‘People and Organisational Development’ demonstrates our commitment to putting people at the centre of our operations. People and Organisational Development’s focus is health and wellbeing and strong professional development opportunities.

Fact file
972 staff (421 in regional offices and 551 in Central Sydney)
481 lawyers and 491 administrative staff
41 Aboriginal staff
731 women and 241 men
15 new permanent staff (5 in regional offices)
68 lawyers have specialist accreditation
Staff numbers 5 year trend
Year FTE* figures**
financial year end
Actual staff number financial year end
2010-11 880.28 972
2009-10 827.8 909
2008–09 824.34 912
2007–08 784.77 852
2006–07 742.31 805

*FTE: full time equivalent
**See Appendix 2 for more details.

Staff movements 3 year trend
2008 /09 2009/10 2010/11
New permanent staff 45 29 15
Staff departures 56 41 52
Promotions 24 26 26

Data not recorded before 2008.

Health and welfare

Health in our workplace – improving psychological injury management

The Mental Health and Wellbeing Working Group was established in 2010 to make recommendations for initiatives aimed at improving the psychological health and well being of all staff and identify the risks they face. The Group involves a cross section of staff from different offices, roles and professional backgrounds.

The Group prepared recommendations for new initiatives that could improve psychological injury management.

Highlights through the year included taking part in Lifeline’s Stressdown Day in July 2010 and an address to staff by Justice Anna Katzmann during Mental Health Month in October 2010. Justice Katzmann spoke about the pressures in the legal profession and made suggestions about how we can all make a positive contribution.

Justice Anna Katzmann addressing staff at inaugural Mental Health Month morning teaJustice Anna Katzmann addressing Legal Aid staff at the inaugural Mental Health Month morning tea. Photo: Dani Pontes

Occupational health and safety (OHS)

We reviewed our OHS processes, policies and guidelines to ensure best practice and the optimum level of health and safety of our employees. The current focus is on implementing processes to ensure the wellbeing of staff – both mental and physical.

Findings from an independent review of health and wellbeing in the criminal law practice, in particular to identify factors relating to stress, workload, mental health, depression and morale, are due to be released shortly.

Stay Healthy Program initiatives included free flu vaccinations, defensive driving skills training, a stretch break program and sponsoring staff to participate in the Global Corporate Challenge.

The OHS Committee, made up of employer and employee representatives, met five times to review OHS policies. Committee membership details are in Appendix 13.

An Implementation Plan has been developed to put in motion actions to meet the targets of the NSW Government’s Working Together Strategy.

Workers compensation

Of the 25 workers compensation claims lodged in the 2010-2011 reporting period, two of the injuries occurred in the 2008-2009 reporting period. Figures and costs incurred by these two claims have been included in the 2010-2011 figures.

Of the total 25 claims lodged in the 2010-2011 reporting period, 22 claims were accepted. One claim was not accepted and two claims were initially accepted under provisional liability, however these were declined following pre-liability investigation.

Record of workers compensation claims
Type of claims No of claims for 2009-2010 No of claims for 2010-2011
Workplace 17 16
On duty (not at workplace) 6 4
Journey 8 5
Recesses – lunchtime & authorised breaks 2 -
Total claims lodged 33 25
Total claims accepted 32 22
Total claims not accepted 1 1
Total claims withdrawn - -
Claims declined 1 1

The cost incurred to 30 June 2011 of new claims reported in 2010-2011 was $236,840 compared to $242,728 in 2009-2010, a decrease of $5888.

The number of accepted claims (includes claims accepted under provisional liability), decreased from 32 in 2009-2010 to 22 in 2010-2011.

Of the accepted claims in this reporting period, there were 5 fall/slip and 10 body stress (e.g. Repetitive Strain Injury) claims amounting to $61,686 in 20102011 or 26.05% of the total cost of claims.

Work related incidents
Type of injury/incident No of claims for 2009-2010 No of claims for 2010-2011
Workplace 7 12
On duty (not at office) 3 1
Journey 10 5
Recesses – lunchtime & authorised breaks 3 2
Total injuries/incidents 23 20

There was an increase in psychological injuries (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Anxiety Disorders and Depression) from five in the 2009-2010 reporting period to nine in the current reporting period. Of the nine claims, one claim was accepted outright and one claim was not accepted. The other seven claims were initially accepted under provisional liability. However of this group, one claim was finalised prior to the pre-liability investigation, two claims were accepted following the pre-liability investigation, two claims were declined following the pre-liability investigation and two claims remain under investigation.

Five of the nine claims lodged were due to alleged bullying. Action is either currently underway or has been undertaken to investigate these claims to ensure that any accepted and outstanding issues are addressed.

Costs incurred by these claims amounted to approximately $173,789 or 73.38% of the total cost of claims for 2010-2011.

The number of full time equivalent (FTE) (on average) staff for this financial year is 880.28, an increase of 52.48 from 827.80 in 2009-2010. This equates to an average claim cost of $269.05 per staff member compared to $293.22 per staff member in 2009-2010.

Legal Aid NSW will continue to pursue the established risk management approach to health and safety with a view to identifying any issues of concern before they can result in injuries/incidents and claims.

The total number of ‘Incident Only’ reports has decreased slightly from 23 in 2009-2010 to 20 in this reporting period of 2010-2011.

EEO profile

Major achievements

"We increased the number of Aboriginal staff to 4.5% of all staff."

Priority 4: Organisational flexibility

We increased the number of Aboriginal staff to 4.5% of total staff, representing 39.2 FTE positions and 41 actual staff.

An additional position was advertised for an Aboriginal person as part of the Career Development Program, making a total of five Aboriginal positions within the Program. Two of the placements are in the Newcastle office.

An Aboriginal Field Officer was employed at the Campbelltown office (see Priority client groups - Aboriginal people).

The number of staff with a disability rose from 4% of total staff last year to 5.4% this year. Disclosure of disability is voluntary.

Although the total number of SES and Senior Officer positions remained the same following a restructure of the executive management structure, the gender composition of the 2010-2011 executive is more balanced than in previous years. There are two female SES officers compared to zero in 2009-2010.

Six women occupy nine senior positions compared to three women in a team of seven last year.


"Registered users of our Learning Management System grew to 3,446 from 1,743 last year."

Fact file
5,734 course attendances
3,687 staff and 1,429 external partners attended 3,786 seminars, courses, workshops and conferences
1,703 new online users came on board
Major achievements

Priority 1: Social inclusion

Our Aboriginal cultural awareness training program entered its third year. The training helps ensure the workplace is culturally sensitive and services are delivered in a culturally appropriate manner. Eleven training sessions were held in Coffs Harbour, Bathurst, Central Coast, Wagga Wagga and Central Sydney, attended by 82 Legal Aid staff and partner agency staff. Participants evaluated the training highly.

Priority 4: Organisational flexibility

The number of users of our Learning Management System (LMS) grew to 3,446 meaning that our continuing legal education, general training courses, online modules and community legal education activities are now being accessed more widely than ever.

In December 2010 we welcomed most private lawyers as LMS users well in time for our annual criminal law conference. Conference participants found the online registration and payment system easy to use.

This year also saw Legal Aid NSW conduct a series of management forums and workshops attended by 195 managers from both legal and administrative streams of the organisation. This initiative provides an opportunity for managers to review their work and link it up with the broader priorities of Legal Aid NSW.

Course attendances 5 year trend

Ten staff gained a Diploma in Management and 12 more embarked on the Diploma (three from our partner organisations). The program is tailored to managing in the legal/public sector environment. Almost 200 employees have graduated since 2003.

Two staff completed the Executive Masters in Public Administration.

Amongst the past year’s best attended training activities were visits to the Supreme, District and Children’s Courts and to LawAccess in Parramatta, our inhouse version of Law for Non-Lawyers and sessions on our records management procedures.

A new online training package based on the Credit Law Toolkit, a publication jointly developed by the Consumer Credit Legal Centre and Legal Aid NSW very quickly became a popular online learning program.

Our courses addressed the NSW Law Society’s mandatory continuing legal education requirements, providing training in practice management and business skills and professional skills. In 2010-2011, NSW Legal Services Commissioner, Steve Mark, presented a seminar on Ethics and Professional Responsibilities. The presentation, with case studies, was recorded and will become the basis of a new e-Learning module.

Two initiatives were implemented in the important area of equipping our staff to provide services to members of new and emerging communities. Cheryl Nolan, Coordinator, North Coast Settlement Service conducted a half-day African Cultural Awareness workshop for staff at the Coffs Harbour office, and in Central Sydney the NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors conducted the workshop, Working Effectively with Refugee Survivors.

This was the pilot for a series of workshops designed to help civil lawyers provide a more comprehensive and effective service to our refugee and immigrant clients.

Legal Aid library staff provided training in legal research to corporate and practice areas in regional offices and Central Sydney.

Grants Division staff took up new opportunities to develop their skills and knowledge

Staff from the Grants Division took up new opportunities to develop their skills and knowledge. Photo: Dani Pontes.


Our conferences have gained a reputation as stimulating learning forums, each year attracting greater numbers of participants. This year’s criminal law conference welcomed 440 participants, the family law conference and care and protection conferences combined, 603, and the civil law conference, 115.

See Appendix 4 for a detailed list of conference and seminar attendance.

Policy and staff reviews

Legal Aid NSW is a statutory body established under the Legal Aid Commission Act 1979 (NSW). The Office of the Legal Aid Commission and the Legal Aid Commission Temporary Staff Division are Divisions of the NSW public sector established under the Public Sector Employment and Management Act 2002 to provide personnel services to Legal Aid NSW. No staff were employed by the Legal Aid Commission Temporary Staff Division.

Major achievements

Priority 4: Organisational flexibility

Late in 2010, the CEO commissioned two reviews: one reviewing the senior management structure at Legal Aid NSW and the other reviewing the Human Resources Division.

As a result of these reviews, there were changes to the senior executive, moving Legal Aid NSW to a flatter Executive structure, comprising eight Executive Directors. See Executive directors and Organisation chart. The Human Resources Branch was renamed the People and Organisational Development Division, to signify a stronger focus on developing the skills of our staff, promoting their health and wellbeing and building a positive workplace culture.

We continued to implement the public sector wide e-recruitment system, which went live in June 2010. All business processes and documentation in relation to recruitment and positions are being reviewed as part of the implementation of the system. This project will deliver a paperless and more time-efficient recruitment and selection process.

The Performance Planning and Review System was reviewed and a new system known as Individual Planning has been developed. Three pilots were undertaken across the Central Sydney office. Following interest by regional offices, pilots were also undertaken in three country regions and one metropolitan office. A report and recommendations for further implementation will be completed in 2011-2012.

An organisation-wide plan articulating strategies to address all facets of people management, including staff development and support was initially slated for 2010-2011; however, due to an executive restructure, this plan has been postponed until next year. This will become a priority for 2011-2012.

In 2010, a review of the Advocacy Unit (criminal law) undertaken by His Honour Andrew Haesler, DCJ, SC was completed. An implementation committee was formed and its recommendations were submitted for final approval to the CEO.

These recommendations include establishing a Senior Allocations Advocate and clear guidelines for the distribution of work between Solicitor Advocates and Senior Advocates. The review has clarified the type of work to be performed with a priority of maximising the amount of time Advocates spend on trial work.

A review of the role of Legal Support Officers was finalised with guidelines set for consideration of ratios of Legal Support Officers supporting lawyers whenever changes to the establishment are being processed.

Employee relations

Priority 3: Integrated services

Staff took part in a number of reviews, including: Legal Support Officer Review, Office Managers Review, Helpdesk Solutions Report, Solicitor Advocate Review, Medibank Health Solutions Report and the Mental Health and Wellbeing Group.

Staff participated in various internal and external committees (see Appendices 13 and 14).

There were no changes to the Code of Conduct.

Staff members celebrating 20 years of service

Staff members celebrating 20 years of service this year were recognised for their fine contribution by managers and peers. Celebrations took place at the Managers’ Conference in November 2010 and at Parramatta Justice Precinct where colleagues gathered to acknowledge Solicitor Advocate Richard Leary’s 20 years of fine achievement. Richard was also awarded a special staff award for Best Advocacy and Performance in Frontline Court Work. Photo: Dani Pontes

Career development

Priority 3: Integrated services

Providing more opportunities for staff to train and work across traditional program boundaries, saw family lawyers take up secondments as registrars in the Children’s and Family Courts or as lawyers in other Government departments whilst the Grants Division provided opportunities for staff to work on projects in other divisions and also welcomed the expertise of civil law staff to its area.

Five positions were offered on the 2011 Career Development Program from a field of 260 applicants. The Program offers rotations in two legal practice areas to recently admitted solicitors over a two-year period.

Professional and personal achievements

Mary Ryan, the Acting Solicitor-in-Charge of the Dubbo office was appointed as a Magistrate in January 2011. Mary’s deep sense of social justice and strong empathy for the most disadvantaged in society comes from a background with the Aboriginal Legal Service and Legal Aid NSW. She is especially well known for her love of the bush and understanding of the particular issues faced by people living in isolated regional areas.

Janelle Clarke from the Aboriginal Services Unit and Timika Williams from the Community Legal Centres Program graduated with a Diploma in National Indigenous Legal Advocacy from Tranby Aboriginal College.

Family lawyer Alexandra Harland was lead author for the book Family Law Principles published by Thomson Reuters.

Annmarie Lumsden, Executive Director Strategic Policy, Planning and Management Reporting completed her Executive Masters in Public Administration.

Planning ahead

Year ahead

Develop an organisation-wide plan to address all areas of people management, including staff development and health and wellbeing.

Implement recommendations from the report by the Mental Health and Wellbeing Working Group.

Increase our Aboriginal workforce to 5.25% by June 2012 and 5.5% by 2013.

Extend Aboriginal cultural awareness training to private lawyers who work in communities where there is no Legal Aid NSW office, and to mediators on our family dispute resolution panel.

Implement the recommendations of reviews into workload, structure and wellbeing in the criminal law practice.

Focus learning on organisational development and managing change, especially in the areas of mental health and wellbeing and professional development.

Review our management and leadership training to ensure it is meeting current and future needs of staff.

Key challenge

Introducing the new OHS legislation will require a review of existing OHS systems and processes to ensure compliance under the new Act. This new Work Health and Safety Act 2011 may require significant changes to current systems which require action to comply and may require educating the workforce.