Assignment of Legal Aid Cases to Practitioners 



Legal Practitioner Panels

To view the current Legal Practitioner Panel Registry - click here

A legal practitioner willing to undertake legal aid assignments (whether criminal, family or civil) must be a member of the Legal Services Commission’s General Panel of practitioners. For certain matters, a practitioner may also be required to be a member of a specialist panel. A practitioner must be a member of the General Panel before being eligible to apply for membership of a specialist panel.

General Panel

To apply for inclusion on the General Panel a practitioner must complete an application form and sign a General Panel Agreement (which includes Practice Standards). By signing the Agreement, the practitioner agrees to be bound by the Agreement and the Practice Standards.

The General 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.

An application for inclusion on the General Panel must be made on the form accessible on this page.


Specialist Panels

Complex Criminal Law Panel

To be granted an assignment involving a complex criminal case a practitioner must be a member of the Complex Criminal Law Panel. A case is a complex criminal case if –
 

  1. the case involves–
  1. the death of a person; and
  2. the charges arise either, directly or indirectly, from that death,

    unless the charge is a summary or minor indictable charge; or

  1. the case is listed for trial in the Supreme Court; or
  2. the case–
    1. is a case of attempted murder;
    2. is a case of conspiracy to murder;
    3. is a sexual offence involving multiple complainants or multiple defendants;
    4. involves a charge or a series of charges of dishonesty  totalling in excess of $500 000; or
    5. involves any other serious criminal offence designated by the Director as a complex criminal case; or
  3. the case has an estimated trial length of 20 days or more; or
  4. the brief consists of more than 5 000 pages; or
  5. the case involves an appeal–
    1. in the Court of Criminal Appeal against conviction; or
    2. in the High Court.

A practitioner may be included on the Complex Criminal Law Panel to undertake solicitor work only or to undertake counsel and solicitor work.  To be considered for inclusion on the Panel to undertake solicitor work only, a practitioner must have at least five years experience in criminal law. To be considered for inclusion on the Panel to undertake counsel work, a practitioner must have at least five years counsel experience in criminal law.

To act as lead counsel in a murder trial for which legal assistance has been granted a practitioner must be a member of the murder subpanel of the Complex Criminal Law Panel.

To be considered for inclusion on the murder subpanel of the Complex Criminal Law Panel, a practitioner must have a minimum of ten years counsel experience in complex criminal cases.

An application for inclusion on the Complex Criminal Law Panel must be made on the form accessible on this page.
 

Guardianship and Mental Health Representation Panel

Section 65 of the Guardianship and Administration Act 1993 and section 84 of the Mental Health Act 2009 provide for the establishment of schemes for legal representation in relation to particular proceedings under these Acts.

A practitioner will only be assigned a matter by the Legal Services Commission under these Acts if the practitioner is a member of the Guardianship and Mental Health Representation Panel.

To be considered for inclusion on the Guardianship and Mental Health Representation Panel a practitioner must–

  1. be a member of the General Panel;
  2. hold a practicing certificate without the restriction that the practitioner must complete supervised practice in accordance with LPEAC 2004 Rule 3.1;
  3. either–
  1. have experience in appeals under the Guardianship and Administration Act 1993 or the Mental Health Act 2009; or
  2. have substantial experience in administrative law;
  1. if the practitioner is an employee, have the consent of his or her employer to the practitioner’s inclusion on the Panel; and
  2. agree to comply with the attached Guardianship and Mental Health Representation Panel Practice Standards and fee scales.


An application for inclusion on the Guardianship and Mental Health Representation Panel must be made on the form accessible on this page.


Independent Children’s Lawyer Panel

In cases where the Federal Circuit Court or Family Court makes an order that the child’s interests in proceedings in the court ought to be independently represented, the court requests the Legal Services Commission to arrange the appointment of an Independent Children’s Lawyer (ICL).

To be eligible for appointment as an Independent Children’s Lawyer, a practitioner must be a member of the Independent Children’s Lawyer Panel. The number of practitioners appointed to the panel will be determined by the Legal Services Commission, taking into account–

  • the number of ICL appointments being made by the courts; and
  • the desirability of each ICL maintaining a reasonable number of ICL cases.

To be considered for inclusion on the Independent Children’s Lawyer Panel a practitioner must–

  1. be a member of the General Panel established by the Legal Services Commission;
  2. have completed the Independent Children’s Lawyer National Training Program run by the Law Council of Australia;
  3. have a minimum of five years recent post admission experience in family law;
  4. be currently primarily practising in family law matters; and
  5. hold a National Police Certificate provided by South Australia Police.

    If counsel is briefed, counsel must be a member of the General Panel and–

  1. have completed the Independent Children’s Lawyer National Training Program run by the Law Council of Australia; or
  2. have a minimum of five years recent post admission experience in family law.  

An application for inclusion on the Independent Children’s Lawyer Panel must be made on the form accessible on this page.
 

Family Dispute Resolution Chairperson Panel

A family dispute resolution practitioner will only be appointed by the Legal Services Commission to chair a family dispute resolution conference if the practitioner is a member of the Family Dispute Resolution Chairperson Panel.

The number of family dispute resolution practitioners appointed to the Panel will be determined by the Legal Services Commission, taking into account:
a) the number of conferences being convened by the Legal Services Commission; and
b) the desirability of each chairperson conducting a reasonable number of conferences.

To be considered for inclusion on the Family Dispute Resolution Chairperson Panel a practitioner must have:
a) accreditation as a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner pursuant to the Family Law (Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner) Regulations 2008;
b) a law degree;
c) a minimum of five years recent experience in family law as a
            i.barrister or solicitor; or
            ii. family dispute resolution practitioner; and

d) hold a National Police Certificate provided by South Australia Police or a clearance letter from the Department of Communities and Social Inclusion Screening Unit.

An application for inclusion on the Family Dispute Resolution Chairperson Panel must be made on the form accessible below.

 

Forms

Restricted Practising Certificates

The following criteria apply to practitioners holding restricted practising certificates:

  • 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.
  • Practitioners should inform the Commission as soon as an unrestricted practising certificate is obtained.
     

Commission Lawyer or Private Lawyer

In assigning matters to Commission staff or to private legal practitioners the primary consideration is the Commission's obligation under section 11(a) of the Legal Services Commission Act 1977 “to seek to insure that legal assistance is provided in the most efficient and economical manner”. Further, pursuant to section 11(d) of the Act, 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”.
     

    Subject to the criteria described below (see Solicitor of Choice) the Commission will generally give effect to client choice of practitioner.
     

Solicitor of choice

An applicant for legal assistance may request a solicitor of his or her choice. Generally, the Commission will give effect to the client’s choice. The Commission will not give effect to a client’s choice of practitioner if–

  1. the chosen practitioner is not a member of the General Panel and, if applicable, the appropriate specialist panel; or
  2. the practitioner holds a restricted practising certificate and the matter is one that will only be assigned to a practitioner holding an unrestricted practising certificate (see Restricted Practising Certificates); or
  3. in the opinion of the Director, such an assignment would not be in the interests of the client; or
  4. the assignment would be inefficient or uneconomic.

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, will be refused, unless special circumstances, as determined by the Director, apply to the matter.

If a client does not request a particular solicitor, and aid is granted, the matter will, if possible, be assigned in-house.  If the matter cannot be assigned in-house, the matter will be granted to a private practitioner on the appropriate Legal Aid Panel who has indicated a willingness to accept assignments in that particular area of law.

The practitioner will be selected, in the vast majority of 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.

Appeals against refusal to grant legal aid

If a practitioner does not receive approval to act then that practitioner can request a reconsideration and will be accorded a right of appeal to the Commission Appeal Committee.  The Appeal Committee may uphold or change the decision of the Assignments Officer. See Appeals.



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