What we do

We provide high quality advocacy for legally aided clients in civil, criminal and family, youth and children’s law matters. We also conduct strategic litigation to remedy a legal problem or change a policy or process to benefit an individual client and the broader community.

Our services

Victoria Legal Aid Chambers:

  • provides high-level in-court advocacy for clients with a grant of legal assistance in civil, criminal and family, youth and children’s law
  • advises on and conducts strategic and test case litigation to challenge the law
  • provides merits advice on complex applications for grants of legal assistance
  • co-ordinates briefing and advocacy across Victoria Legal Aid’s legal practice
  • implements initiatives to ensure quality advocacy for legally aided clients, including the Trial Counsel Development Program and Block Briefing Pilot project.

Chambers advocates are also involved in justice and law reform activities.

Facts and figures

  • Our advocates appeared in 2,037 cases (84% criminal, 14% family, 2% civil), including 82 County Court criminal trials (20 in Circuit Courts located in regional centres) and six Supreme Court criminal trials (three in regional Victoria).
  • 20% of all hearings were conducted in regional locations.
  • Of the criminal matters, 21% were conducted in regional locations.
  • Of the family matters, 17% were conducted in regional locations. In 26% of family matters, our advocates appeared as an independent children's lawyer.
  • Of the civil matters, 3% were conducted in regional locations.
  • 51% of significant cases were briefed to female barristers (up by 2%).
  • Our Trial Counsel Development Program funded 18 criminal trials. In all of those trials, junior counsel was a female member of the Victorian Bar.

Key achievements

Increased capacity to support early intervention

We increased capacity with the addition of civil and family law advocates. Our civil law advocates now assist the staff practice in judicial review matters, tenancy, migration, mental health and other civil jurisdictions. Our family law advocates bring additional skills as independent children’s lawyers to our already strong focus in child protection law. Both recognise our organisational emphasis on early intervention, and children and the law.

Helping people in regional Victoria with quality representation and timely justice

We continued to work closely with the County Court to develop flexible and responsive approaches to listing in regional circuit courts. Over the last year, delays in regional courts have dropped, so that regional matters are often reached far faster than comparable cases in Melbourne. We continued to prioritise providing advocates for our regional staff practice. Twenty-one per cent of our appearances were in regional courts, helping ensure that regional practitioners and clients have access to the same quality representation as their metropolitan counterparts.

Challenges

Co-ordinated briefing in family law and civil justice matters

We continue to develop a co-ordinated briefing policy in our family law and civil justice program after successfully implementing this in the Criminal Law program. It will require careful analysis to determine the areas of legal need in which our advocates would be best placed to assist clients. This will be followed by policy development and implementation across our staff practice to change workflows so that we work efficiently and consistently when briefing counsel.

Outlook

In 2015–16 we will:

  • continue to work collaboratively with the courts to develop and deliver innovative solutions to reduce delay in regional criminal circuits and ensure timely justice for clients
  • further develop the skills of our staff practice through direct mentoring and role-modelling of best practice in advocacy
  • continue to prioritise providing advocates to assist regional practitioners
  • focus on internal efficiency and staff wellbeing, including critical examination of work practices to support high quality representation for clients alongside manageable workload and stress levels.