What we do

We have lawyers on ‘duty’ at many courts and tribunals across Victoria. These duty lawyers help people who are at court for a hearing, but do not have their own lawyer.

Our service

Our duty lawyers provide free legal information, advice and representation to clients. Duty lawyers do not represent everyone. We prioritise serious cases, including people who are in custody or at risk of going into custody and people who need intensive support.

Duty lawyer services are delivered through our legal programs:

  • Criminal Law program – Magistrates’ Court summary crime duty lawyer services
  • Family, Youth and Children’s Law program – Children’s Court (Family Division), Magistrates’ Court (for family violence intervention order matters) and Commonwealth Family Law Courts
  • Civil Justice program – Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (Human Rights and Residential Tenancies Divisions), Mental Health Tribunal, Administrative Appeals Tribunal, Magistrates’ Court (Special Circumstances List) and Federal Circuit Court (migration directions).

Facts and figures

We provided 83,674 duty lawyer services (up by 16%). Duty lawyers may be one of our staff lawyers or a private practitioner funded by us.

Our staff lawyers provided 76,948 services (up by 17%) to 49,721 unique clients (up 12%).

Performance against target

Performance against our target for providing duty lawyer services (by number of sessions provided by our staff lawyers and private practitioners) is:

2014–15 target 2014–15 outcome % variance
74,000 83,674 13.1

The increase in services is driven by a number of external factors beyond our control, including legislative changes in the mental health jurisdiction, increased police initiations, and an increase in family violence and child protection matters coming before the courts. Victoria Legal Aid staff have responded well to meeting the increased demand. 

Duty lawyer services over two years

Duty lawyer services over two years (see table for figures)

Year Staff lawyers Private lawyers Total
2014–15 76,948 6,726 83,674
2013–14 65,727 6,217 71,944