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Annual Report 2014 - 2015

Learning and development

Fact file
3,710 people attended Legal Aid NSW conferences and seminars – a 4% increase
2,060 attendances at Legal Aid NSW courses and workshops – a 44% increase
711 online learning modules completed – a 4% increase

OBJECTIVE: Supporting our people

More staff increased their knowledge and skills

"Learning attendances increased by 44 per cent, contributing to a well-informed workforce."

Learning and development grew significantly over the last year. The 44 per cent increase in employees accessing online and classroom based learning was largely due to changes to the contributions policy and introducing work practices aligned with the Government Sector Employment Act 2013. This level of activity is likely to continue into 2015-2016.

Work began on an online learning site and tailored workshops to help employees get the most from Individual Planning, our performance management framework. More details about learning and development opportunities appear in Appendix 3.

Learning tools equip staff in a changing environment

In 2014-2015, there was emphasis on providing staff with learning opportunities to make sure they understand how the GSE Act affects their work practices. These included online learning and face-to-face learning, in line with our move towards a blended learning model. Over 350 staff attended Apply for a Role and Prepare for Assessment – focused on recruitment, behavioural-based interview skills, selection, and employee merit, with workshops continuing into next year.

New online tools included Capabilities at a Click, to help employees define the capabilities outlined in their role descriptions, and Managers’ Admin Zone, where managers can find helpful information about procedures and resources.

In March 2015, a revised Legal Aid NSW Learning Management System was launched. After six years of successful operation and several refinements, the new system was given a more user-friendly interface and a greater range of functions.

We finalised a new program for building leadership and management capabilities using the 70:20:10 learning model. Those who complete the program will build knowledge, practical skills and have the opportunity to apply them on the job.

OBJECTIVE: Excellence in legal services

Professional development for mobile lawyers

The Legal Aid NSW Plan 2014- 2015 highlights professional development of outreach lawyers as a priority.

Legal Aid NSW held a Mobile Lawyers Forum in August 2014 with the aim of developing and improving the capacity of mobile lawyers to undertake outreach.

Close to 70 Legal Aid NSW staff – lawyers, legal support officers and office managers – from regional and metropolitan offices and from across the legal practices participated. It was the first time that such a group had come together to discuss the unique skills, experience and knowledge required to undertake effective outreach.

Lifting the capabilities of our executive team

As part of the ongoing development of the Legal Aid NSW Executive, an Executive program was implemented during 2014-2015. The Executive participated in a 360 degree feedback process, hearing about their management style from the CEO and their peers. After feedback, each member of the Executive undertook coaching sessions to discuss areas of development to lift the overall executive capability.

Professional development for Aboriginal staff

National Reconciliation Week in May 2015 was an ideal time for the Chair of the Legal Aid Board, Craig Smith, to award Khaila-Rose Prior and Katrina Ellevsen, two Legal Aid NSW employees, with the 2015 Aboriginal Employees’ Chairperson’s Scholarship. The scholarship provides financial support for further studies to enhance employment opportunities.

Under the Aboriginal Employment and Career Development Strategy, two newly admitted Aboriginal lawyers were employed on a two-year program that will give them hands-on experience in two legal practice areas.

Under the Judge Bob Bellear Pathways to Legal Careers Program, a number of cadets successfully completed their cadetship and practical legal training placements. More than 50 participants have now been part of the program since its inception.

Members of the Aboriginal staff network met twice this year to provide peer support, training and professional development for Aboriginal staff at Legal Aid NSW.

Professional development for lawyers

There are currently 63 lawyers working for Legal Aid NSW who are accredited specialists: one in civil law, 22 in family law and 40 in criminal law.

Criminal law practice

The Law Society of NSW once again offered criminal law specialist accreditation – a rigorous testing process – in 2015. Legal Aid NSW increased our numbers from nine applicants (all successful) in 2013 up to 20 applicants in 2015. The results for these 20 applicants will be known next year.

The Advocacy Institute of Australia in association with Legal Aid NSW delivered a two-day course for 32 criminal lawyers with a focus on the practice of criminal law in our courtrooms.

The Legal Aid NSW criminal law conference 2014 attracted 440 participants.

At the criminal law conference: Conference organiser, Heather Anderson; keynote speaker Justice Rothman; Director of Criminal Law, Richard Funston; plenary speaker Dr Sarah Edelman; and CEO of Legal Aid NSW, Bill Grant

Above: At the criminal law conference: Conference organiser, Heather Anderson; keynote speaker Justice Rothman; Director of Criminal Law, Richard Funston; plenary speaker Dr Sarah Edelman; and CEO of Legal Aid NSW, Bill Grant.

For the first time, an Aboriginal kinship and communication workshop was offered in conjunction with the criminal law conference. See Improving lawyers’ skills in working with Aboriginal clients for details.

Civil law practice

Twelve lawyers were trained in advocacy skills, including case theory, ethics, conciliation skills, and rules for presenting evidence. Another sixteen attended training in examination and cross-examination of witnesses in complex matters. All participants were made members of an inhouse advocacy community of practice. These communities exist in a range of areas, including employment law, housing, and community legal education.

A civil law conference was attended by 351 private and inhouse lawyers as well as colleagues from other notfor- profit agencies.

Family law practice

Legal Aid NSW hosted the inaugural national conference for independent children’s lawyers. This conference and the annual family law and care and protection conferences attracted a total of 1,179 participants.