What we do

We provide preventative services to Victorians to help them understand their legal options at the earliest opportunity and where to go if they need further assistance.

An informed person is able to act on their legal rights and can help prevent a legal problem from escalating, avoiding costly litigation at court.

Our services

Our preventative services are free and include:

  • our Legal Help telephone service, the main entry point to legal aid services, which provides legal information, advice and referrals
  • our face-to-face information and referral service, available at all Victoria Legal Aid offices
  • online and printed information through our website and publications
  • targeted community legal education to increase people’s knowledge of their legal rights and responsibilities and mitigate the escalation of legal disputes
  • legal advice sessions over the phone or face-to-face at our offices or via outreach services

  • minor assistance and advice (which includes advocacy services) when there is a need for some ongoing assistance and there is a tangible benefit for the client. This includes looking over documents, providing written advice, making telephone calls, negotiating on a person's behalf or making a simple appearance before a court or tribunal.

Read our preventative services facts and figures.

Key achievements

Improved accessibility and assisted more Victorians through Legal Help

Our free Legal Help telephone service helped more people with a new legal problem. We helped more than 114,000 people (an increase of 21 per cent compared with 2013–14), answering 70 per cent of calls with an average wait time of three minutes.

We opened five new language lines staffed by bilingual lawyers in Legal Help, enabling us to provide direct assistance in 19 languages other than English without the need for a third party interpreter. We have more than doubled the number of languages in which help is provided since 2012–13.

A new step forward to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people

We launched our first Reconciliation Action Plan as part of National Reconciliation Week in May 2015. The plan outlines actions to help address the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people within the justice system, and work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal and community organisations to advocate for systemic change. It commits us to:

  • improve access to our legal services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • build cultural awareness among our staff
  • advocate for systemic change
  • improve employment opportunities at Victoria Legal Aid for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Reaching vulnerable communities and young people through education

We launched Learning the law: fines and driving, a new educators’ kit created in partnership with the Victorian Department of Education and Training. The kit was created specifically for specialist school teachers of high school students with a mild intellectual disability, and includes short films and e-learning activities. We created tailored professional development sessions for teachers to build their knowledge and confidence to deliver legal education using the kit. More sessions are scheduled in the coming year.

Our Sex, young people and the law program continues to be a key education program. This year we ran 49 education and training sessions with 1,327 participants, prioritising disadvantaged young people. In addition, we trained staff at partner agencies, such as Berry Street, to provide sessions to users of their service.

Increased access to online legal information

This year we noted a continued and increasing reliance on our online information by the Victorian community to assist with their legal problems. While session traffic for our whole website increased by around 28 per cent, sessions for our Find legal answers legal information section increased at an even greater rate of 36 per cent, with the majority of this traffic coming directly from search engines.

Challenges

Reducing call wait times at busy periods

Meeting demand during Legal Help’s peak periods remains a challenge. To make it easier for our callers we will introduce new contact centre software to pilot a ‘work from home’ approach and trial new channels like webchat, with features such as ‘virtual hold’.

Connecting with our stakeholders in a digital world

Our stakeholders are using more online educational content every year. We are investigating new ways of recording this work, understanding how workers access and use our content and ensuring workers can access our content easily on our website. We provided funding for the Centre for Innovative Justice at RMIT University. The centre will run a three year project which invites students from across RMIT, supported by mentors from community legal centres and Victoria Legal Aid, to develop technology based solutions to common legal problems.;

Future challenges

In 2015–16 we expect to see:

  • increased demand for free legal information, matched by our promotion and improved delivery of assistance through our Legal Help telephone service
  • continued demand, driving us to look for innovative ways to provide online self-help resources for people with legal problems, complementing our more intensive services.

Outlook

We are developing a better referral and booking system for our services to improve our clients’ experience in seeking our help. In the coming year we will also continue to strengthen links between our free Legal Help telephone service and community legal centres so that clients can be referred into services across the legal assistance sector in a more timely and appropriate way.

We will also increase our programs and content for workers to use in educating their clients, including for youth workers, and teachers and professionals working within the community, health, education and justice sectors.

Upcoming strategic initiatives, such as revising our approach to family violence service delivery, will provide opportunities for us to look at different ways of delivering training to staff and providing information to the community.