Go to content

Annual Report 2017 - 2018

Supporting staff

During the year, Legal Aid NSW continued to invest in our people, acknowledging that staff work in a challenging context and need to be highly skilled and well supported.

Fact file
1203 staff, 576 in regional offices and 627 in our Central Sydney office
631 lawyers and 572 administrative and corporate services staff
75 Aboriginal staff
309 men and 894 women
79 lawyers with specialist accreditation

Staff numbers over five years

Year FTE figures Financial year end Actual staff number Financial year end
2017–2018 1,098.94 1,203
2016–2017 1,058.79 1,163
2015–2016 1,028.95 1,116
2014–2015 945.85 1,046
2013–2014 903.91 994

Staff movements over five years

Staff movements 2013– 2014 2014– 2015 2015– 2016 2016– 2017 2017– 2018
New ongoing staff 15 54 56 64 58
Staff departures 57 66 165 77 88
Promotions 32 11 51 37 36

Note: Under the Government Sector Employment Act 2013, permanent staff are referred to as ‘ongoing’.

OBJECTIVE Supporting our people

Review leads to more efficient process to recruit administrative staff

Our administrative staff are much more than traditional legal secretaries—as well as supporting lawyers, the review showed that our legal support officers seek to provide an outstanding level of customer service to our clients, often under very difficult circumstances.

As a result of the review of the role of our legal administrative last year, the first bulk Assessment Centre pilot for the Legal Support Officers Clerk Grade 1/2 role commenced at the end of June 2018. We assessed approximately 80 candidates through a combination of objective online assessments, multi-mini interviews, and work samples. This aims to bring about a more efficient, consistent, and effective way of hiring new staff into the organisation.

Better recruitment practices

In response to the 2017 People Matter Survey, we are in the process of reviewing our recruitment processes. We improved our recruitment practices through:

  • The establishment of additional roles to provide a higher level of support and expertise
  • Priority consideration for candidates on the Aboriginal talent pool across all our ongoing and long-term roles
  • New targeted advertising through social media channels such as Facebook and LinkedIn

Organisational reviews acknowledge the complexity and volume of work we do

We completed a number of organisational reviews to address the ongoing complexity and volume of the work we do.

In 2017, the Strategic Planning, Policy and Community Partnerships Division was restructured. The Director of the Division reviewed its role and structure and recommended changes to better align the Division with Legal Aid NSW’s strategic direction.

The newly named Policy, Planning and Programs Division now has seven units covering:

  • Strategic Law Reform Unit
  • In-house Counsel Unit
  • Planning and Review Unit
  • Business Reporting Unit
  • WDVCAP Unit
  • CLC Program Unit
  • Collaborative Legal Service Delivery Unit

In our Criminal Law Division three Indictable teams merged from the existing Committal and Indictable teams in response to the change to practice as a result of the Early Appropriate Guilty Pleas reform. This resulted in additional roles at all levels with three teams conducting end to end case management for indictable matters from committal to trial.

The Regional Office Project commenced in April 2018. This project aims to develop a new model for managing regional office staff and resources. This will result in defining clear reporting lines and decision-making points, developing a model for effective staff performance management, clarifying the respective roles of Solicitors in Charge and identifying clear and meaningful operational KPIs for regional offices. The Project Team as at 30 June was in the consultation phase, with their report due in August 2018. A pilot of the new model will commence towards the end of 2018.

The Grants Division conducted a review of the Grants systems and processes and workshops for Grants staff identified grants specific priorities.

PMES 2017 survey—listening to our staff and responding

The NSW People Matter Employee Survey was open to all employees across the NSW Government sector during June 2017.

The survey provides an important opportunity for our employees to have a say about their workplace and to help make Legal Aid NSW a better place to work.

Legal Aid NSW returned a 52% response rate and 73% engagement rate.

As a result of the survey, in 2017–2018 we consulted with staff through focus groups and workshops to improve recruitment practices. Some of the changes that resulted from this consultation process include new talent pool activation guidelines, candidate information packs, more administration support for bulk recruitment actions (e.g., booking interviews, printing), hiring manager guides to providing meaningful feedback to interviewed candidates, and more flexibility for regional offices to conduct their own local recruitment.

We also introduced Divisional Action Plans to give staff and managers the means to build on the positive feedback and address areas that needed improvement.

Individual Planning is the performance and development framework. It is a part of Legal Aid NSW day to day business and is used to manage and develop staff capabilities.

A speak up employee culture—complaints and workplace standards

We promote the Legal Aid NSW Code of Conduct with staff at induction and provided specialised training to established and emerging leaders and managers to assist them to resolve workplace conflict and to respond to alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct.

In support of a ‘speak up’ culture we developed posters about respectful workplace behaviour and resolving conflict.

The number of workplace complaints received about alleged misconduct (38) was consistent with the previous year (41).

A lack of respect (26%) and bullying and harassment (28%) continue to be the most common allegations. The number of allegations being characterised as bullying increased by 10%.

Following a process of assessment and enquiry the majority of complaints (60%) were resolved informally or resulted in no action (not misconduct). The remaining 40% were subject to formal investigation. These figures are consistent with last year.

As a consequence of substantiated findings of serious misconduct four ongoing employees had their employment terminated in 2017–2018. A fifth employee serving a period of probation also had their employment terminated.

One public interest disclosure was received in the reporting period and notified to oversight agencies–NSW Ombudsman and the Independent Commission Against Corruption.


We continued to work closely with staff to consult and collaborate on major organisational changes. This was achieved through:

  • Our Peak Consultative Committee composed of the CEO, People and Organisational Development (POD) and the PSA, which met every two months.
  • People and Culture Sub Committee which met monthly to discuss HR issues
  • Our Health and Safety Committee includes an executive representative, POD, Facilities and the health and safety representatives which met every two months to discuss work health and safety matters.
  • Our Equity and Diversity Committee comprising the CEO, executive representatives, representatives from the business, the Disability Network and the PSA which met on a quarterly basis to discuss equity and diversity initiatives.
  • In addition, various consultative committees and working groups were established to implement the Justice Reforms, the Regional Office Project, Recruitment initiatives and the Administrative Services Review.