Legal Aid Panel
Any practitioner willing to receive legal aid assignments should write to the Commission on their usual letterhead and ask for inclusion on the Commission's legal aid panel. Practitioners may nominate their willingness to accept assignments in any, or all, of the following areas:
Practitioners must be listed on the panel to be assigned cases by the Commission.
Further conditions for assignments in the Criminal Law area
From 3 September 2012, the following further conditions apply:
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:
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.
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.