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Annual Report 2011 - 2012

A snapshot of our services

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

Iliana Montalvo

Iliana Cruz Montalvo from the Parramatta office takes time out from office duties to explain our services to members of the public during Law Week 2012.

The following page captures a snapshot of our client services, and statistics for 2011–2012. Three-year comparison tables can be viewed in Appendix 7.

Details about our achievements in client service delivery are summarised in the Legal Aid NSW Plan and expanded upon in the Client services section of this report.


Provided 609,299 information services, an increase of 18.5% on 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 printed 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 more help.

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

Legal advice and minor assistance

Provided 111,347 advice and minor assistance services, an increase of 14.4% on last year.

Legal advice is available at no cost.

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 171,744 duty services (108,198 of these were provided inhouse and 63,546 were provided 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 disadvantaged people appearing before the Local and Children’s Courts 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.

Duty lawyer services are available for children and disadvantaged adults involved in care and protection matters at every specialist Children’s Court in NSW, and at 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.

Legal Aid NSW also provides duty lawyer services for disadvantaged people involved in proceedings under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) and child support legislation. These services are provided across the state in the Family and Federal Magistrates Courts.

Legal representation

Provided representation in 38,751 matters (12,819 provided inhouse and 25,932 assigned to private lawyers).

Legal Aid NSW provides legal representation in criminal law, family law and civil law matters to people who meet eligibility tests. Our policies can found on our website under >For lawyers >Policy Online.

Clients can apply for a grant of legal aid through a Legal Aid office or a private lawyer, who will complete an online application, or by completing a paper application form. We operate a means test for grants of legal representation so that these services are targeted towards those who need them most. Most people granted legal aid are required to pay a contribution towards the costs of their legal representation. For more information visit this part of our website under >Get legal help >Apply for legal aid.

Publications and community legal education

Distributed 678,103 publications and provided 2,211 community legal education sessions (see Publications and 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.

Our resources are listed on our website under Factsheets and Resources and can be ordered online at >Publications >Order a publication.

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 18,736 calls to the hotline, advising 8,259 young people about their legal rights.

Our telephone hotline provides legal advice and information to young people under 18, and operates from 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 a record number of 2,586 conferences, reaching full or partial settlement in 79.4% 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 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.

Specialist services

Established the Sexual Assault Communications Privilege Service (see Privacy for victims of sexual assault) and the Commonwealth Crime Unit (see Commonwealth crime).

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

  • Adult Drug Court Service
  • Care and Protection Legal Service
  • Child Support Service
  • Children’s Legal Service (criminal matters)
  • Client Assessment and Referral Unit
  • Commonwealth Crime 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
  • Sexual Assault Communications Privilege Service
  • Veterans’ Advocacy Service
  • Work and Development Order Service
  • Youth Drug and Alcohol Court Service (Note: This service was no longer funded after 30 June 2012 once the Youth Drug and Alcohol Court closed).

Flood Recovery Centres

Our lawyers attended Flood Recovery Centres to advise almost 200 people affected by flooding in Moree, Wagga Wagga and Griffith.