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Annual Report 2018 - 2019

An efficient and capable Legal Aid NSW

OBJECTIVE: A fairer justice system

A dedicated space for clients and lawyers participating in case conferences

A purpose-built Case Conferencing Hub was conceived by the Designing Out Crime research centre at the University of Technology, Sydney to create a safe and secure environment for clients participating in case conferencing. The Case Conferencing Hub, which was constructed at our Central Sydney offices, also includes additional audio-visual link facilities.

Mandatory criminal case conferencing between parties is a key component of the 2018 early appropriate guilty pleas reform, and is designed to allow more matters to be resolved earlier in proceedings, and to reduce court time for those matters that do proceed to trial. The Hub is available to private and in-house lawyers who need to conduct a mandatory criminal case conference with prosecutors.

OBJECTIVE: A highly capable workforce

A blueprint for designing offices that support our values

We began collaborating with the Designing Out Crime research centre at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) and Sydney-based architects JPA&D to develop an integrated design blueprint and guidelines for creating offices that support Legal Aid NSW values, practices and outcomes.

The blueprint will be informed by:

  • input from our solicitors in charge and office managers
  • visits to four regional offices
  • findings from the Designing Out Crime research centre’s Case Conferencing Hub project
  • guidance from Legal Aid NSW committees and staff in Client Services, Information Technology and Facilities
  • a test site where new work practices and solutions can be explored, and
  • NSW Government policies and regulations.

The resulting integrated design guidelines will set out consistent approaches for client-facing facilities and office spaces that will be applied to all future office fit-outs.

OBJECTIVE: Responsive business processes

More efficient processes promise faster decisions for our clients

We are committed to improving the experiences of our clients and to ensuring that legally aided matters progress through our courts efficiently. To support these aims, we are reforming our grants processes to help us make decisions about whether to grant legal aid more quickly.

This year we restructured our Grants division and made changes to our ATLAS grants management system, including Grants Online application forms, so that more applications can be processed automatically, meaning faster decisions and more certainty for our staff, private lawyers and our clients.

Regular scorecards improve accountability

We developed key performance indicators and a monitoring framework to guide managers and their staff. Last year, we developed a suite of 26 key performance indicators for each of our criminal, family and civil law practices and our Grants division to meet, across five categories:

  • safety and security
  • service delivery
  • engaged workforce
  • diversity, and
  • cost-effective service delivery.

The first set of performance scorecards for each division was completed for the full 2017–18 year. This year, we implemented quarterly reviews to help us stay on track.

Mapping legal need and visualising our services

We completed the implementation of a geospatial mapping tool in our business reporting system that will help us better plan our services. The tool allows us to easily add visual “layers” of data such as population demographics, service volumes and service locations – for example, Legal Aid NSW offices, courts, Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) locations, or community legal centres – on geographic maps to inform our service-planning and decision-making. This will allow us to visualise, interpret, compare and summarise spatial data, and to share that information across our organisation and externally in a variety of formats, including interactive maps.

A new approach to knowledge management

We recognised a need to tap into the significant expertise and experience of our staff in a more systematic way. To address this, we developed a knowledge management framework that allows our lawyers to better capture and share their knowledge, and to gain easier access to resources that assist them in their legal practice.

Key elements of our knowledge management framework
People and culture:understanding and application of knowledge management principles at Legal Aid NSW
Governance:establishing a knowledge management committee and putting policies and processes in place to ensure the framework is sustainable
Content management:making content easy to locate
Tools:making better use of, and building on, existing systems including our intranet, SharePoint, collaboration tools, the Client and Case Management System and research resources to support knowledge management activities

Year ahead iconThe year ahead

  • We will begin sharing maps that incorporate data including service volumes, service-providers and demographic information.
  • We will offer our staff training in knowledge management and legal research.
  • We will carry out refurbishments at select Legal Aid NSW offices, including an update of the main reception area at our Central Sydney office to improve client amenities and an expansion of our Gosford office to accommodate our new Elder Abuse Service.
  • We will trial our strategic advice framework in advice clinics before rolling out a refined strategic advice framework to all clinics.
  • We will trial, refine and roll out a legal triage framework to better match clients with the services they need.