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Annual Report 2011 - 2012

Our organisational capability

We found better ways to use our resources effectively, achieve greater efficiencies, and improve client satisfaction with our services.

Regular reviews and independent scrutiny

Rigorous evaluation and research help us plan and deliver our programs, ensuring our services are appropriately targeted to disadvantaged clients with high legal needs.

Major achievements

Priority: Excellence in legal services

A number of service delivery reviews were commissioned or completed, including:

Recommendations from these reviews will be implemented in 2012-2013, helping to improve service delivery practices, process and systems across the organisation.

Commonwealth review

Priority: Excellence in legal services

Commonwealth funding to Legal Aid NSW is governed by the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services (NPA), and is being reviewed for the Commonwealth Government by the Allen Consulting Group.

The purpose of this review is to:

  • assess the progress of the Commonwealth and States in achieving the objectives, outcomes and outputs of the NPA; and
  • establish a robust evidence base for the policy and program implementation for legal assistance services across Australia so they are more efficient and cost-effective.

Legal Aid NSW will have several opportunities to provide information to the review.

Planning ahead

Year ahead

Provide a submission to the NPA reviewers, ensuring they have a comprehensive understanding of Legal Aid NSW services and programs, and the collaborative partnerships within the New South Wales legal assistance sector.

Review the conduct of committals and indictable work in the criminal law practice to increase costeffectiveness and efficiency and improve services for clients.

Review the Family Law Early Intervention Service and outreach services.

Review key regional programs, community partnerships programs and private lawyer panels.

Key challenge

Completing service reviews and delivering reforms in the context of NSW Government budget savings required over the next three years.

Effectiveness, efficiency and economy

Our business systems help us provide clients with high quality services. We made our systems and processes more efficient and innovative, as well as using smarter technology – achieving our Legal Aid NSW goals and resulting in better services for clients.

Tapping into the knowledge of our lawyers and administrative staff was crucial to this process.

Major achievements

Priority: Access to justice

Database of services

Legal Aid NSW provides a wide range of services to clients across New South Wales. During 2011-2012 we developed a database of services to allow us to better track and promote these services. The Find a Legal Aid NSW advice service database is used to provide a map and postcode search of our services on the internet. We also use it to assist us plan our services by identifying areas of need and reducing duplication.

Priority: Supporting our  and Excellence in legal services

A single telephone number The new telephone system, implemented in September 2011, gives both clients and lawyers dealing with grants-related matters, a single phone number for contacting Legal Aid NSW. Calls are directed to Grants, the Service Desk, Professional Practices, Family Dispute Resolution or the Legal Aid Review Committee Secretariat.

System improvements

Legal Aid NSW tested and implemented changes to integrate the ATLAS grants management system and the CASES case management system with JusticeLink data. This was part of the Joined up Justice project. The changes will allow staff to view JusticeLink data about their matters in new screens in ATLAS and CASES. This will be implemented early in 2012-2013. We also worked to integrate ATLAS and CASES with the TRIM document management system.

We developed a mobile version of Grants Online for private lawyers. Designed for use on iPads, it will be ready for implementation in early 2012–2013.

Data collection under National Partnership Agreement

Legal Aid NSW played a key role in the National Legal Aid working group, refining definitions and the counting methodology for data items reported under the National Partnership Agreement.

Knowledge management

To better support our inhouse legal practices, we established a knowledge management network with representatives from across the organisation. The network creates a forum to share information and identifies areas for cross-practice initiatives. The group looked at practice support tools, keeping upto- date with changes to legislation, and using technology to support knowledge management.

Knowledge management activities included:

  • Developing ‘communities of practice’ (COPs) in civil law around key areas of law. COPs provide opportunities for lawyers to build skills in particular areas of interest where we want to achieve certain systemic outcomes. Each COP is tailored to meet the professional development needs of staff at all levels and in the context of delivering advice and casework services. Current COPs include employment law, payday lending, and Indigenous consumer law.
  • Introducing a learning and development framework in family law (see Developing  skills base of staff).
  • The family law practice promoted a culture of ‘One Legal Aid’ to improve internal referrals for clients across our range of services, also engaging an information and referral officer in the Early Intervention Unit in Parramatta to develop strong referral links.
Library and legal research tools

Legal Aid NSW has a dedicated library service. There has been a 20% increase in research requests from staff, while support to Aboriginal Legal Service lawyers has increased by 11% and our assistance to private lawyers dealing with Legal Aid NSW clients has increased by 3%. There has also been a 5% increase in the number of training sessions offered by the library.

Priority: Linking services

There are now 153 locations where Legal Aid NSW provides regular outreach advice and assistance. We provided 11,446 outreach advice sessions in 2011-2012. A new outreach advice network was established to improve practice, coordination and governance of these outreach services.

Planning ahead

Year ahead

Conduct a post-implementation review of the grants and inhouse case management systems.

Make improvements to the grants management system for private firm users.

Develop an early resolution service for grants management.

Review organisational data and information needs and develop a new tool for management reporting and analysis (see Information Technology).

Redesign the civil law intranet site to better support the civil law practice.

Review the platform for our intranet site to better support knowledge management, improved searches on our intranet, and access to LawPrompt, a rich resource library developed by LawAccess NSW.

Key challenge

Keeping the business needs of our lawyers and support staff front of mind in the design of our systems. This will require a critical analysis of our business processes and systems to determine whether anticipated benefits have been realised.

Information technology

Information technology played a key role in assisting the organisation to deliver better services, and to achieve goals from the Legal Aid NSW Plan.

Major achievements

Priority: Access to justice

Our new website provides clear pathways for members of the public who need legal help and for lawyers and service providers assisting clients with legal problems (see Communicating effectively with our audience). The website meets the standards of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

Priority: Supporting our people

Business intelligence

This year we began developing new business intelligence facilities which will allow the organisation to improve decision-making, resource management and service delivery, by replacing the current data extraction system with new management reporting systems.

A Business Intelligence Taskforce was established in February 2012 to ensure that we have the information needed to monitor and plan our services. The taskforce has:

  • audited our data collection so we can identify and address a number of collection issues;
  • reviewed our legal service definitions to ensure that they are consistent with State and Commonwealth requirements; and
  • commenced collecting referral data to allow us to establish how clients find out about our services and where they are referred.
Connecting systems and staff

Twenty criminal law staff were issued with iPads linked remotely to Legal Aid NSW systems as part of a pilot to trial this new technology. A clear outcome has been greater work flexibility through making important resources more readily available.

The Legal Aid NSW library is initially introducing the latest e-books and e-loose-leaf services to staff involved in the pilot. The library will also offer training and assistance for staff setting up access to the latest legal applications.

The iPad trial is currently being evaluated.

Infrastructure

We implemented a new Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) telephony solution across the State which will be fully integrated with our desktop environment. It provides staff with integrated telephony, instant messaging, presence visibility and desktop web conferencing. Other infrastructure changes completed this year included the replacement of our core server infrastructure and the installation of a new backup and recovery system.

Priority: Linking services

Web conferencing

A pilot of desktop web conferencing to external business partners allowed Legal Aid NSW staff to video-conference from their desk to business partners in other organisations including Community Legal Centres and the Aboriginal Legal Service (see Web conferencing trial). A successful outcome of the pilot program will be a reduction in costly and time consuming travel by Legal Aid NSW staff to remote areas. The pilot program is due to be reviewed in November 2012.

Joined up Justice

The project to integrate our case and grants management systems with the JusticeLink courts management system at the Department of Attorney General and Justice continued through this year. We had anticipated the initial stages of the project would be implemented during the year.

This was delayed as system changes were finalised and implementation is now expected to take place in October 2012.

AVL services

We used audio-visual links to conduct our work with other justice agencies and gaols, saving on time and costs.

AVL conferences held 5 year trend

Note: The large increase in the use of video conferencing is due to the inclusion of 5,555 Parramatta Justice Precinct weekend sessions that were not previously included.

Service Desk

A new Service Desk was established on 1 July 2011, incorporating the former IT Helpdesk and Grants Support Desk. It provides a single point of contact for all support calls, streamlined support processes and integrated support service software. This year we published a Service Catalogue and implemented a service level agreement with business areas in order to meet their service expectations.

Planning ahead

Year ahead

Explore mobile communication options.

Broaden the availability of mobile tablet devices to staff where business needs justify their use.

Manage access to essential legal research tools on mobile devices for lawyers working out of the office.

Build partnerships with other law agencies to ensure staff have access to the most up-to-date digital resources.

Survey the users of the new website to ensure it is meeting their needs.

Roll out new Business Intelligence facilities across the organisation and develop a Data Governance Framework.

Provide staff with a new contemporary personal computer operating environment, including the replacement of desktop PCs.

Improve document and resource management, giving consideration to staff mobility needs and records management compliance.

Key challenge

Ensuring staff have a range of facilities and options available to them to effectively access our information management systems securely from wherever they are working.

Resourcing for the future

Major achievements

Priority: Access to justice

The total number of calls to Legal Aid NSW increased by 36% over the previous year. There were 150,681 calls made to our main reception centre, raising the number of calls dealt with by staff from 100 to 130 calls per person per day. The number of clients visiting in person at our Central Sydney office was 56,683, a 25% increase on 2010–2011. We ensured that staff are trained and skilled to work in this high volume busy environment.

Legal Aid NSW is a member of the Attorney General and Justice Cluster, which is made up of 14 agencies. The Department of Attorney General and Justice is the principal department, playing a role in facilitating cooperative working arrangements across these agencies. Part of this strategy is the Justice Shared Corporate Services Program —a whole-of-government approach to corporate service delivery. The Program includes consolidating corporate services across the government into six shared service providers or ‘clusters’, pooling technology, resources and expertise.

The Operations Support, Finance, People and Organisational Development and IT areas played a key role in the reform process and contributed to exploring avenues for best practice in shared corporate services.

Publications

The number of publications ordered through our online system has increased from 382,405 in 2007–2008 to 678,103 in 2011–2012, a 77.3% increase. Despite a growing number of publication pdf downloads (396,176 in 2011–2012), there is still a very large demand for printed publications.

Managing this high volume of resources is a challenge. This year, Legal Aid NSW tendered for a new warehousing storage and distribution system that will improve our distribution turnaround time and increase efficiency.

Publications can be ordered online.

Priority: Supporting our people

We improved accommodation for our staff by:

  • fitting out a new office at Nowra to meet increased service delivery needs in the area;
  • providing staff amenity areas on levels 1, 2 and 4 in Central Sydney; and
  • improving court facilities at Penrith and Toronto with the cooperation of the Department of Attorney General and Justice.

New fixed duress alarms were installed at all our regional offices, replacing portable handheld devices, which can be misplaced. In an extreme situation each office now has the discretion to use an alarm that alerts the police directly.

Staff working offsite have GPS remote portable alarms for improved personal protection which enable our security company to take appropriate action in emergencies. Audits of offsite locations are further enhancing our ability to protect the wellbeing of staff providing outreach services.

We have developed a policy framework for risk reduction consistent with the new work health and safety legislation. This requires investigation and corrective action following all high-level incidents.

Planning ahead

Year ahead

Improve our service delivery by providing larger office premises in Wagga Wagga and Gosford.

Continue our security risk program by reviewing all our outreach premises.

Introduce and monitor a new storage and distribution system for our publications that is faster and more efficient.

Key challenge

Integrating our services with the whole-of-government shared services program and ensuring that Legal Aid NSW service delivery is maintained at a high level.

Environmental responsibility

Legal Aid NSW is committed to taking steps towards achieving paperless offices and increasing green score targets through a number of sustainability initiatives.

Managing our records

As part of our records disposal program, we identified approximately 6,000 boxes of records for destruction. This represents an annual saving of $31,000 in storage costs.

While the appraisal of paper records for destruction is a priority, the compliant disposal of electronic records will be implemented when our case and grants management systems have been integrated fully with our corporate record keeping system.

This year, we upgraded our record keeping system (TRIM) to version 7.1. It will be further upgraded for integration with Sharepoint for the compliant management of electronic documents as records.

Waste reduction

In line with the NSW Government’s Waste Reduction and Purchasing Policy, we reduced the purchase of white paper by 5.5%. Our paper recycling almost exceeded our paper purchased.

Energy use

Having met our 2009-2011 WRAPP targets we are looking for new and different ways to be green in leased office accommodation. This is challenging as we have already put systems in place and exceeded Government targets for electricity usage and fleet green scoring*, and adopted procurement strategies via government purchasing. We will monitor and review our progress to ensure we maintain our performance.

How we reduced our environmental footprint this year
Goal Target Achieved
Reduce electricity consumption Reduce number of standalone printers by 75% Replaced 95% of printers with multi-function units.
Reduce paper purchasing by 10% (main WRAPP* goal) 85% of all copy paper to contain recycled content 100% of white copy paper is recycled and carbon neutral.
**NABERS Building Energy Rating for Central Sydney office 4.5 star NABERS** Rating 4.5 star NABERS** Rating at Central Sydney
Green electricity purchasing Government target 6% We purchased 15% green power
Increase E10 fuel consumption 100% 100%
Increase vehicle Environmental Performance Rating (EPR) 13.5 13.73 with target for 14.7 (EPR) for 2012-2013
Carbon neutrality Carbon neutral All paper now carbon neutral and actions as above

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

Planning ahead

Year ahead

Integrate our business systems across Legal Aid NSW to provide staff with an efficient records and information management environment that complies with record keeping standards and requirements.

Find new ways to improve on our current green initiatives.

Implement more strategies from our WRAPP Plan.

Key challenge

Increasing staff awareness and participation in finding new green initiatives to be included in our 2013-2015 WRAPP Plan.