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Annual Report 2020 - 2021

Legal education and capability development

Support for managers

This year we put significant emphasis on supporting our managers at various levels in the organisation.

We piloted and evaluated Manager Essentials, a seven-month program that provided managers with core concepts and practical tools to strengthen their management and leadership capabilities.

We piloted a Manager as Coach program with 14 senior managers enrolling and showing a commitment to their ongoing leadership development.

Members of our Executive took up places in the NSW Leadership Academy’s Leading Executives Program (Band 1 and 2). Four staff were also accepted into the Leadership Academy’s Executive Leadership Essentials program.

Two senior leaders were supported to undertake the Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG) Executive Master of Public Administration program.

We launched a dedicated learning and development intranet page to make it easier for managers to find resources that can support them, including recruitment and hiring manager guides.

We created a strategy to support staff who have graduated from the LEAD management development programs to further embed their learning and facilitate their ongoing leadership development.

Staff development

We implemented a Career Pathways resource for civil, family and criminal law staff to provide clearly defined pathways for career progression at Legal Aid NSW.

We launched a learning calendar for staff to find, access or register for the full suite of available face-to-face and virtual workshops, recorded webinars, and on-demand digital resources.

We reviewed and updated our online corporate induction program for new starters and created a Welcome to Legal Aid NSW intranet site where new employees and managers can find information about starting at Legal Aid NSW, induction, orientation and probation.

We responded to the challenges posed by COVID-19 by delivering all our training online using a range of virtual technologies.

We commenced the rollout of Connecting with People (CwP), an internationally recognised, evidence-based suicide prevention training program that aims to support our staff to engage with clients and others who are in distress in a compassionate, effective, and consistent manner.

We delivered the Overcoming the Barriers training for LawAccess NSW staff to build their capacity in providing accessible and effective services to people experiencing mental illness.

NSW People Matter Employee Survey (PMES)

This year we had an exceptional 97 percent response rate to the NSW People Matter Employment Survey, compared with just over 47 percent for the sector.

We also returned higher scores across all key survey topics than the rest of the public sector. Our employee engagement and job satisfaction scores were 77 percent and 79 percent respectively.

Our top three scores were in:

  • inclusion and diversity
  • customer service, and
  • flexible working satisfaction.

We are using these results to lead initiatives including offering more IT support, improving feedback loops between managers and staff, providing more learning and development opportunities, and improving recruitment processes.

Lawyer Education Series

We developed the Lawyer Education Series – a suite of CPD-accredited training modules and resources relevant to areas of our work or the needs of specific communities. This series was created to support private lawyers who work with us to deliver high-quality legal aid services. Staff from across the organisation contributed to the series.

Legal conferences in 2021

The NSW Child Protection Legal Conference was held in February 2021. It was the first conference jointly organised by Legal Aid NSW, the Department of Communities and Justice, and the Children’s Court. Over 200 socially distanced people attended the International Convention Centre Sydney, with a further 467 people attending virtually from the regions.

Our first virtual Legal Aid NSW Criminal Law Conference was held on 2–3 June 2021, streaming from the International Convention Centre Sydney to attendees across the state and at legal aid commissions across Australia. The program featured an impressive line-up of speakers including the Honourable Mark Speakman SC, Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC, Justice Michelle Gordon AC, His Honour Judge Graham Turnbull SC, Her Honour Judge Dina Yehia SC, the Honourable Mark Weinberg AO QC, and Belinda Rigg SC.

Continuing professional development (CPD)

1. Criminal law

In 2020–2021 we delivered our criminal law CPD remotely. We launched a digital learning series which provided CPD online, through both live and pre-recorded sessions. The series covered a range of topics presented by in-house lawyers, public defenders, and members of the bar. Topics included virtual court appearances in 2020, engaging neuropsychologists as experts in criminal matters, the Justice Advocacy Service, and sentencing in the Local Court. Members of the Bugby Bar Book Committee also held a panel discussion on the Best practice standards for representing Aboriginal clients.

In place of our 2020 Criminal Law Conference, we held a webinar week in December 2020. The program contained a wide range of topics such as unlawful strip searches, cross-examining on lies and credit, child protection offender prohibition orders, developments in the law of tendency, and the new mental health legislation. These sessions were delivered by crown prosecutors, public defenders, members of the private bar, and in-house and Aboriginal Legal Service lawyers. A highlight of the program was a presentation by Arthur Moses SC on Lawyer X and ethics.

2. Family law

Our family law staff delivered 17 webinar training sessions on various topics of relevance to family law and care and protection lawyers, up from 13 last year. In total, 611 staff and private lawyers attended live training webinars and many more have subsequently watched the recordings.

In November 2020, we delivered an Independent Children’s Lawyer (ICL) workshop training for 37 practitioners (26 private and 11 in-house), which was delivered online for the first time. We also delivered a face-to-face day of Nuts and Bolts training for ICLs in March 2021. A total of 29 practitioners (19 private and 10 in-house) attended this training.

3. Civil law

Civil law staff delivered 25 webinars as part of our brush up series for 2020–2021, delivering 40 hours of CPD content on topics such as the Public Health Orders, tenancy, Centrelink, immigration, and employment law changes as a result of COVID-19.

Following the introduction of a new file review and quality assurance process, we hosted a file review and practice management webinar in July 2020 with over 150 civil law staff in attendance, as well as holding in-person events in March 2021.

New communities of practice were established on intentional torts, judicial review, and school exclusion.

We pivoted to virtual learning for our Civil Law Legal Excellence Program, in partnership with the Law Society of NSW. This program supports civil lawyers to develop a suite of technical legal skills. We delivered three online sessions to civil law staff in partnership with the Blue Knot Foundation on the topic of building trauma awareness as part of our drive to keep our staff mentally healthy and to support them in managing vicarious trauma.

Year ahead iconThe year ahead

  • We will continue to support the growth, development and capabilities of our managers and leaders.
  • We will extend the Career Pathways resource to non-legal staff at Legal Aid NSW.
  • We will continue to deliver the Connecting with People suicide prevention training.