Legal Aid Panels


General Panel

A legal practitioner (be it solicitor or counsel) willing to undertake legal aid assignments (whether criminal, family or civil) must be a member of the Legal Services Commission General Panel of practitioners.  To apply for inclusion on this panel a practitioner must complete an application form and sign a General Panel Agreement (including Practice Standards).  By signing the Agreement, the practitioner agrees to be bound by the Agreement and the Practice Standards. 

The Panel Agreement will be returned to the practitioner after being signed by the Commission to confirm the practitioner’s inclusion on the Panel.  The date entered by the Commission is the date from which the Panel membership commences.

Complex Criminal Law Panel

A practitioner included on the General Panel may apply for inclusion on the Complex Criminal Law Panel or the murder subpanel of that Panel.  An explanation of the types of matters that will only be assigned to a practitioner on the Complex Criminal Law Panel, and an application form for inclusion on that Panel, is accessible below.

For inclusion on the Complex Criminal Law Panel a practitioner must–

  • have at least five years experience in criminal law if the practitioner wishes to undertake solicitor work only in complex criminal cases; or
  • have at least five years counsel experience in criminal law if the practitioner wishes to undertake counsel work in complex criminal cases.

Forms

Please note that all EFT Forms must also be accompanied by a copy of the firm's stationery that shows the firm's street address and their ABN.
 
By completing an application form the practitioner is acknowledging that the information provided is true and correct and will be relied on by the Commission in deciding on the practitioner’s admission to the panel for which they are applying.

A practitioner with a question in relation to panels should contact the Deputy Director, Karen Lehmann on 8111 5596.
 

Further conditions for criminal cases

  • Magistrates Court matters involving only summary charges may be assigned to a practitioner in the first year of a restricted practicing certificate. That practitioner may act as solicitor and counsel.
  • Magistrates Court matters involving only minor indictable charges, or a combination of minor indictable and summary charges, may be assigned to a practitioner in the second year of a restricted practicing certificate provided the Commission is informed of the nature of the matter, approves it to be undertaken by the named practitioner and is satisfied that the junior practitioner is properly supervised. That practitioner may act as solicitor and counsel.
  • District and Supreme Court matters will only be assigned to a legal practitioner holding an unrestricted practicing certificate. The Commission acknowledges that on occasions junior practitioners working at a firm may be undertaking specific tasks on a legally aided file as a solicitor, but the Commission expects that the junior practitioner will be properly supervised in the conduct of these tasks. Counsel attendances in Court must be by a practitioner holding an unrestricted practicing certificate.
  • The solicitor acting in District and Supreme Court trials and appeals must advise the name of the counsel who is to be briefed for trial. Further, if counsel changes for any reason, the solicitor must inform the Commission the name of the new counsel.
  • If a practitioner does not receive approval to act then that practitioner will be accorded a right of appeal to the Commission Appeal Committee who may uphold or change the decision of the Assignments Officer. See Appeals.
  • Practitioners seeking grants of aid whilst subject to a restricted practicing certificate, should inform the Commission of their date of admission and this will be recorded on our panel screen of the Law Office computer programme which will be used as a reference for Assignments Officers to grant applications to practitioners on restricted and unrestricted practicing certificates.

Selection of Staff or Private Lawyers for Assignment

Persons who apply for legal assistance may request a solicitor of his or her choice. Subject to the restrictions on grants to practitioners holding restricted practicing certificates, wherever possible the Commission will assign that solicitor/counsel of choice.

In assigning matters to Commission staff or to private legal practitioners the primary consideration shall be the Commission's obligation under section 11(a) of the Legal Services Commission Act “to seek to insure that legal assistance is provided in the most efficient and economical manner”. Further, pursuant to section 11(d) the Commission is required to “have regard to the following factors:

 

  • the need for legal assistance to be readily available and easily accessible to disadvantaged persons;
  • the desirability of enabling all assisted persons to obtain the services of legal practitioners of their choice;
  • the importance of maintaining the independence of the legal profession;
  • the desirability of enabling legal practitioners employed by the Commission to utilise and develop their expertise and maintain their professional standards by conducting litigation and doing other kinds of professional legal work”.

Generally the Legal Services Commission gives effect to client choice of practitioner wherever it is reasonably possible to do so, consistent with the above criteria.

Claimed and Unclaimed Matters

The Legal Services Commission supports the concept of solicitor of choice and provided it is economically feasible will continue to do so, except that assignments will not be made to a nominated practitioner where such an assignment would not, in the opinion of the Director, be in the interests of the client, bearing in mind the nature of the matter, or where by reason of budgetary constraints, it is inefficient or uneconomical to do so. Commissioners have resolved to direct that funding for the transfer of a matter to a new legal practitioner, if applied for between conviction and sentencing for the purpose of sentencing submissions, should be refused, unless special circumstances, as determined by the Director, apply to the matter.

Applicants are asked at Question 46 in the application for legal aid form:

“In respect of this Application who do you want your lawyer to be? In some cases you may not get the lawyer you choose”

If a private practitioner is nominated, and there is an accompanying letter from that private practitioner with the application form (provided also the application satisfies our Means, Merits and Guidelines criteria) the application is treated as claimed and will, in the vast majority of cases, result in that practitioner being appointed to act.

If a legal aid staff lawyer is sought, the application is also treated as claimed.

If a private practitioner is nominated, but there is no accompanying letter from the nominated practitioner, the Commission is entitled to treat that matter as unclaimed, and may determine to brief the matter in-house (if aid is granted). The Commission however maintains a flexible approach to such applications, and, if in subsequent negotiations, and upon receipt of appropriate written submissions, is satisfied that it is proper in all of the circumstances to do so, the matter may be re-assigned to the nominated private solicitor.

If question 46 is not answered (and aid is granted) the Commission will treat the application as unclaimed, and act accordingly. These grants will only be re-assigned in exceptional circumstances, or where a conflict or some other compelling reason has arisen.

Where neither a private practitioner nor a staff lawyer is nominated (if aid is granted), and the matter cannot be handled in-house, assignments are granted to private practitioners who have indicated a willingness to accept assignments in that particular area of law.

The assigned practitioner is selected in the vast majority of these cases, by geographical considerations, (particularly rural and outer suburban areas) where practitioners have indicated that they service a particular court, or their office is closest to where the applicant resides. In other instances, practitioners will be selected as having a particular expertise in the relevant area of law, or availability at short notice.


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