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Annual Report 2021 - 2022

Private lawyers

Legal Aid NSW works in partnership with private lawyers, who receive funding from us to represent legally aided clients in assigned matters.

Private lawyers are appointed to Legal Aid NSW panels under the Legal Aid Commission Act 1979 (NSW). This year, private lawyers provided 71.2% of all casework services, and 41% of all duty lawyer services. Further details appear in Appendix 5.

Total panel members

Number of private lawyers on Legal Aid NSW panels 2021–2022*
General panels
General Civil Law Panel357
General Family Law Panel623
Summary Criminal Law Panel1,110
Specialist panels
Appellate Criminal Law Barrister Panel82
Care and Protection Panel157
Children’s Criminal Law Panel470
Complex Criminal Law Barrister Panel189
Domestic Violence Panel508
Independent Children’s Lawyer Panel129
Indictable Criminal Law Panel613
Indictable Criminal Law Barrister Panel189
Mental Health Advocacy Panel357

*Some lawyers are active members of more than one panel.
Figures include current active panel members whose appointment start dates were before 30 June 2022.

The lawyers who sit on our panels

Private lawyers

Where our panel lawyers are located*

Private lawyers

*Based on the panel member’s primary office location.

Monitoring quality and supporting private lawyers

We have continued to implement our Private Lawyer Quality Framework, which was created to improve our engagement with private lawyers undertaking legal aid work and to drive and monitor quality to ensure our clients receive great legal services.

Review of fees paid to private lawyers

On 1 July 2021, the base hourly rate in state matters increased from $160 to $170. Fees not based on the hourly rate increased by 6.25%. This was the second of four annual increases following on from the allocation of $87.7 million by the NSW Government in November 2019.

We also introduced a new fee scale for assigned lawyers and counsel appearing in high risk offender matters.


We undertake audits to ensure compliance with the Legal Aid NSW Quality Standards. Where issues of non-compliance are identified, we may take no action, offer support and/or training, conduct follow-up audits, or in cases of serious non-compliance, may remove a law practice from panels.

Total audits completed in 2021–2022:

Quality audits6 law practices (20 files)
File reviews20 law practices (62 files)
Spot check audits25 law practices

Regional visits

The Private Lawyer Quality Standards Unit conducted targeted regional visits in 2021–2022 once COVID-19 safety measures were eased to listen to and encourage feedback.

Proactive supports

New content was added to our lawyer education series and the Legal Aid NSW website in 2021–2022 to provide updates and training to private practitioners.


We use complaints as the primary mechanism to identify concerns about panel member performance. Since implementing, promoting and embedding our complaints-handling process, the number of complaints received and investigated by our team has increased.

Complaints received:

January to June 2021156
July 2021 to June 2022311


In 2021–2022 a total of four practitioners were removed from panels due to breaches of the Legal Aid NSW Service Agreement and/or our Quality Standards.

Care and Protection Panel changes

We reviewed the eligibility criteria to represent adults and children in the care and protection system on behalf of Legal Aid NSW. Panel membership now requires mandatory completion of lawyer education series training, as well as completion of the Care and Protection Representing Children Workshop provided by Legal Aid NSW. For practitioners who had never previously been on a care and protection panel, a referee report confirming five years post-admission experience in the care and protection jurisdiction is also required.

These changes were implemented in response to an identified need to give greater focus and support to practitioners in the care and protection jurisdiction. Our clients in this jurisdiction are some of our most disadvantaged and vulnerable, and outcomes can have lifelong or even intergenerational consequences.

Year ahead iconThe year ahead

  • We will continue to support private lawyers through engagement and CPD-accredited training.
  • We will review the Legal Aid NSW Panel Service Agreement and our Quality Standards to ensure they remain relevant and consistent.
  • We will continue to engage with external and internal stakeholders to develop ways to gather feedback and monitor quality.
  • We will continue proactive monitoring through audits and regional visits.
    JWe will continue to investigate complaints in accordance with the Quality Management Framework.