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Annual Report 2019 - 2020

Highlights this year: how we made a difference to clients and communities

Putting clients at the centre of everything we do

Our client-first approach puts our clients at the centre of everything we do by involving them in the design and testing of new service models and processes.

Streamlining legal pathways: our work with LawAccess NSW

Legal Aid NSW took over management of LawAccess NSW this year, with a formal transfer scheduled for July 2020. LawAccess NSW is a contact service providing assistance to people via phone and its website. The integration of LawAccess NSW provides us the opportunity to improve telephone services for the public with one clear entry point, as well as options for those who want to get legal help online.

The integration commenced with the implementation of a service model and the diversion of calls to LawAccess NSW from two trial offices, Blacktown and Port Macquarie. Staff examined the service flows for clients and identified the opportunities for streamlining entry to legal services.

A key element included the adoption of the Legal Aid NSW triage model, which aims to increase the availability of services to those who have a high-impact legal matter or are from a priority client group. It also encourages the referral of those who have the ability to self-help and may not be eligible to receive legal aid assistance towards other agencies.

The trial was paused when the COVID-19 pandemic commenced.

Consistent triage

We refined our new triage model to enable us to consistently match individual clients to the level of service they need. The triage model channels clients with high-impact legal matters and priority clients to legal advice. It also allows a flexible safety net for those who lack the capability to self-assist. All other clients are referred to information or other services.

The model is ready for implementation across all Legal Aid NSW offices in 2020–2021.

Designing digital tools with our clients

In 2018, we held workshops with clients to explore how people want to be helped when they have a legal problem, and how and when they would like us to communicate with them about their legal aid application. These projects were the result:

1. Grants Tracker

We piloted a Grants Tracker – an online tool enabling clients to track the status of their grant application and see all stages of their application including refusals, appeals and terminations.

The pilot was successful with 80 percent of clients giving the Tracker a rating of 4 out of 5 stars. We will launch an improved Grants Tracker with increased functionality next year.

2. Client portal

We designed a prototype client portal to allow clients to deal with us electronically. The portal includes:

  • a secure log-in
  • tracking of new legal aid applications and current or old cases
  • a calendar that enables clients to manage their appointments, and
  • the ability to upload documents.

An operating portal is the next stage.

3. Online triage

In 2020, we engaged digital agency Code for Australia to undertake discovery and initial stages of the design of an online triage tool. It has been designed so that the public can use their own words to describe their legal issue or problem. The tool will then guide them to the right pathway, which could include:

  • self-help tools, resources and guided pathways
  • web chat with a paralegal or lawyer
  • an appointment with a lawyer, or
  • link through to a client portal with information about their ongoing matter or application for aid.

User testing was positive so we will commence the build for this tool in 2020–2021.

4. Online self-help tools launched

In June 2020, we launched two new online self-help tools, also known as guided pathways, to assist people to find tailored solutions to deal with their fines and low-complexity traffic offences.

Having access to these tools means that people can get the help they need without seeing a lawyer or are able to have a more focused discussion with their lawyer if they do need further advice.

The two guided pathways are:

  • FineFixer NSW*: takes people through a series of questions and provides useful, ranked options to deal with their fines. A wide variety of fine types are covered.
  • Traffic Offences: takes people through a series of questions and provides options to help people make a decision about what to do next with common traffic offence problems.

The tools have been developed with input from clients and lawyers and are available on the LawAccess NSW website.

* Legal Aid NSW partnered with Moonee Valley Legal Service (Victoria) to adapt their existing Victorian online resource, FineFixer, for the NSW jurisdiction.

Story iconProviding a more holistic legal service

Sylvie* is a young Indigenous woman who was referred to Legal Aid NSW’s Early Intervention Unit through the hospital’s social worker. Her mother had been killed and she wanted advice about the will. Our Early Intervention Unit lawyer gave practical advice about locating the will and finding out the balance of accounts. Most importantly, the Early Intervention Unit lawyer was able to spend time with the client and put the will issue in context given the care and protection matter she was also helping Sylvie with, and the grief Sylvie was experiencing as a result of her mother’s death. This assistance was far better than being referred to a separate civil law clinic where she would have had to retell her story to get basic information.

* Not her real name

Advice framework

This year we continued to refine a consistent advice framework for the organisation. We delivered the advice framework training package and quality assurance mechanism (QAM) for Legal Aid NSW solicitors who regularly provide advice.

Generalist lawyers

The Generalist Lawyer Project is Legal Aid NSW’s operational response to evidence that disadvantaged people often have multiple and serious legal problems which may go unaddressed.

The Generalist Lawyer Project was trialled with the family law Early Intervention Unit and the civil law Elder Abuse Service this year. The project allowed lawyers to assist clients across all law types by providing information, advice, and warm referrals. This project has produced positive outcomes for clients and staff and will be refined and rolled out to another five of our services in 2020–2021.

Year ahead iconThe year ahead

  • We will consistently and quickly triage people to the right level and type of service.
  • We will continue to simplify the pathway to a grant of aid.
  • We will continue to simplify client entry through our integration with LawAccess NSW.
  • We will increase client options for access to legal help, including digital options.
  • We will continue to implement the generalist lawyer model across the organisation.