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Annual Report 2016 - 2017

Professional and personal achievements

OBJECTIVE Excellence in legal services

Professional development for lawyers

There are currently 77 lawyers working for Legal Aid NSW who are accredited specialists: one in civil law, 24 in family law and 52 in criminal law.

Our graduate program continued by adding five new graduates to our five continuing graduates. These graduates were selected from over 200 applications. Two of the placements are Aboriginal-identified positions and one was a position reserved for an applicant from a culturally diverse background. This highly sought after two-year program provides graduate lawyers with hands-on exposure to two practice areas and one-on-one mentoring.

The annual civil law conference in July 2016 was attended by 256 participants from across the legal and human services sector.

The family law and care and protection conference in August 2016 attracted 475 participants.

There was no annual criminal law conference in this reporting period.

Supporting the career pathways of law students

Legal Aid NSW engages with law students through a range of programs including career events at universities, work experience placements and internships. Our participation in these programs is viewed positively by both staff and our stakeholders.

The number of law students and universities seeking placement opportunities for their students within Legal Aid NSW is increasing. In response, we began developing a more coordinated and consistent approach to governance of student placement arrangements; and prioritising the provision of placement to law students from a diverse range of backgrounds.

Joining the New South Wales Magistracy

Legal Aid NSW criminal lawyer Joy Boulos was sworn in as a Magistrate of the Local Court on 29 May 2017. Joy worked for Legal Aid NSW for 23 years, mainly in criminal law. In recognition of her outstanding work in the Sydney District Court arraignments list, Joy’s swearing in was attended by several current and former Judges.

Nominated for justice awards

Michelle Jones, Manager of the Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Program was nominated for the Justice Medal and Dubbo criminal lawyer David Pheeney was nominated for the Aboriginal Justice Award.

Civil lawyer, Bill Gerogiannis was awarded the inaugural Michelle Crowther Excellence Award for Government Legal Service in September 2016. He accepted the award at the 2016 Government Solicitors Conference. Jenny Lovric received a special commendation for her work with the Cooperative Legal Service Delivery Program. These awards pay tribute to the late Michelle Crowther, who worked at Legal Aid NSW as a criminal lawyer and had a passion for public legal service.

Training lawyers for Stolen Generation claims

Our civil lawyers undertook trauma informed practice training in preparation for providing direct services to members of the Stolen Generation applying for reparations under the NSW Reparations Scheme due to commence in July 2017.

‘Assimilation as Trauma and Trauma Informed Practice’ was delivered in June 2017. It provided lawyers with insight into the trans generational trauma still experienced by Aboriginal communities across New South Wales and how this affects the way lawyers interact with Aboriginal clients.

Our staff undertook special training in preparation for providing legal advice and education to Aboriginal communities about eligibility for reparations claims.

OBJECTIVE Supporting our people

Program to improve gender equity

Our inaugural Women in Advocacy Mentoring Program was launched in July 2016, and saw 19 criminal lawyers paired with barristers for a six-month period.

The program aimed to help female lawyers improve their advocacy skills and learn how to deal with some of the challenges female lawyers face at work. Regional lawyers were able to participate online using Skype. The 2017 program is in the early stages.

OBJECTIVE Strong partnerships

Building the capacity of in-house civil lawyers

Work began on a professional development framework to build the capacity of in-house civil lawyers to achieve a standard of excellence in civil law legal practice. This is the first formal program of this kind and includes advocacy in mediation forums and managing complex client interactions. It will include a form of accreditation supported by the Law Society of NSW—our partners in this project.

The year ahead

  • Improve our administrative capability by responding to the Administrative Support Review.
  • Roll out resources and training for staff providing services to people living with mental illness.
  • Provide career opportunities to increase the employment of Aboriginal staff to eight per cent of total staff.
  • Introduce new initiatives to promote employee wellbeing, ethical practices and a positive culture.
  • Develop staff management and leadership capabilities to improve and sustain organisational performance.
  • Achieve accreditation as a Disability Confident Recruiter.
  • Meet targets under the National Model Gender Equitable Briefing Policy.
  • Pilot a professional development program inhouse civil lawyers in partnership with the Law Society of NSW.

We pay tribute to a great leader— Vale Bill Grant (1951–2017)

In January 2017, Legal Aid NSW staff mourned the untimely passing of former CEO Bill Grant OAM.

Bill Grant, 65, had retired in December 2016 after a combined 11 years at the head of Legal Aid NSW.

Bill had left an incredible legacy and his leadership and vision had been inspirational. This includes strengthening services for victims of domestic violence, expanding civil law services, and bringing legal services to remote areas of New South Wales. During his recent time as CEO, Legal Aid NSW established offices in Port Macquarie and Albury and expanded services for people in South Western New South Wales, Far Northern New South Wales and Broken Hill.

Tributes that poured in from across the justice sector include this one from Chief Magistrate of the Local Court, Judge Graeme Henson:

“His death is a shock and all too soon. On behalf of all magistrates, I extend my condolences to Bill’s family and acknowledge the great contribution he made to the law during his outstanding career.”