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Annual Report 2015 - 2016

Professional and personal achievements

OBJECTIVE Excellence in legal services

Professional development for lawyers

There are currently 79 lawyers working for Legal Aid NSW who are accredited specialists: one in civil law, 20 in family law and 58 in criminal law. Only about 170 lawyers in New South Wales currently have specialist criminal law accreditation. This year, 15 criminal lawyers and two family lawyers were awarded specialist accreditation after a rigorous peer assessment process administered by the Law Society of NSW. The scheme provides the profession and the public with a reliable means of identifying lawyers with proven expertise in their chosen area of law.

The criminal law practice began a pilot mentoring program in collaboration with the NSW Bar Association for female lawyers who wish to improve their courtroom advocacy skills.

Legal Aid NSW recruited five new lawyers for the Career Development Program in March 2016. The Program consists of a two-year rotation through two divisions of the organisation. Participants are finding the program very supportive and professionally satisfying. Comments include “I feel like I’m making a difference” and “I love the variety of the work”.

Two Legal Aid NSW criminal law conferences fell within 2015–2016, attracting a total of 1,090 participants, reflecting the importance of this conference to criminal lawyers across New South Wales.

The annual civil law conference was attended by 144 private and inhouse lawyers as well as colleagues from other not-for-profit agencies. Two family law conferences and a care and protection conference attracted 798 participants. Over 200 lawyers and social scientists attended the child representation conference in Wollongong.

Attending the 2016 criminal law conference were l-r: Joy Boulos from Legal Aid NSW; Kara Shead, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions; Kristy Crepaldi, Senior Manager of the specialists reforms team at Victim Services; Gina O’Rourke SC, Deputy Senior Crown Prosecutor and Her Honour Jennie Girdham SC, District Court Judge.

In other initiatives the family law practice:

  • gave practice staff, community staff and panel lawyers the opportunity to extend their advocacy skills through an Australian Advocacy Institute training program
  • trained all of its staff to provide more culturally responsive and aware services to Aboriginal people by hosting a compulsory training day in October 2015
  • held a one-day workshop on clearer communications for junior lawyers
  • developed new training webinars on topics like: ‘Representing clients in proceedings for compulsory schooling orders in the Children’s Court’
  • implemented a program of Independent Children’s Lawyer refresher training and mentoring to improve the support given to ICLs and the quality of representation.

Employees take up senior appointments

In November 2015, the then Deputy Director of the criminal law practice, Paul Hayes, was sworn in as a New South Wales Magistrate. Paul worked as a lawyer at Legal Aid NSW for 25 years in a number of roles and offices, including Solicitor-in-Charge of the Fairfield office and as Acting Director of the civil law practice. He has brought his expertise, composure and compassion to the Bench.

Criminal law advocate, Nerissa Keay, was appointed as an Acting Crown Prosecutor for 12 months. At Legal Aid NSW, Nerissa conducted numerous trials, an inquest, Children’s Court defended hearings and Parole Authority matters.

In April 2015, Elizabeth (‘Liz’) Boyle was sworn in as a Judge on the Federal Circuit Court. Liz worked for Legal Aid NSW from 1990 to 1999 and, at the time of her appointment, was at the NSW Bar where she took briefs in legally aided matters for independent children’s lawyers and parents. She was the Bar representative on the family law committee of the Legal Aid Review Committee and regular educator at Legal Aid NSW events. In her acceptance speech, Liz gave credit to the impact that Legal Aid NSW had on her career development.

Employees receive public recognition

In March 2016, Kylie Beckhouse, Director of Family Law was awarded a Churchill Medallion for completion of the Churchill Fellowship and final report.

Manager of the Cooperative Legal Service Delivery (CLSD) Program, Jenny Lovric, was nominated for the Justice Medal at the NSW Justice Awards. She was nominated in recognition of her 20-year commitment to improving access to justice for disadvantaged communities in New South Wales and particularly for her work managing the successful expansion of the CLSD Program and Regional Outreach Clinic Program.

Icon for The year aheadThe year ahead

  • Develop a work, health and safety plan to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our staff.
  • Ensure that 50% of staff within the criminal law practice participate in at least one health and wellbeing session.
  • Deliver workplace standards initiatives as part of the Public Service Commission’s positive culture and productive workplaces reforms.
  • Ensure that Individual Planning becomes a regular part of work and part of the business planning cycle.
  • Pilot a new training program and resources for staff working with people with mental illness.
  • Review the role of administrative staff to improve client service and support for lawyers.
  • Maintain the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce at 6% and improve employment outcomes for Aboriginal people.
  • Roll out local Aboriginal cultural awareness training to regional offices based on a needs assessment.
  • Implement a workforce strategy for recruiting, employing and retaining people with disability.