Allocation of work guideline

Allocation of work guideline

This guideline relates to all criminal law, family law, child protection, family violence and personal safety intervention order matters, and matters where an independent children's lawyer is appointed.

A grant of legal assistance (including a transfer of legal assistance) made for any of the above types of matters will only be allocated to a firm or independent children's lawyer on a relevant specialist panel established under section 29A of the Legal Aid Act 1978 or a Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) lawyer.

For family law matters, VLA will only allocate the conduct of the matter to a non-section 29A panel firm if the particular needs of the client cannot reasonably be met by a section 29A panel member or VLA lawyer.

Re-allocation of legally assisted matters

If VLA re-allocates a legally assisted matter, then its first choice will be to re-allocate it to one of VLA’s lawyers.

However, if VLA’s lawyers cannot act in the matter, then VLA will re-allocate the matter to a member of the section 29A panel.

Re-allocation of matters if there is a conflict of interest

If a member of a section 29A panel or VLA lawyer discovers they have a conflict of interest, then VLA will re-allocate the matter to another lawyer in accordance with its allocation of work guideline.

Allocation of pleas or trials following a privately funded committal

In an indictable crime matter, if an accused person seeking a grant of legal assistance for a plea or a trial has privately funded their committal, the amount of private funds may affect VLA’s allocation of legally assisted work for their plea or trial.

If a member of the section 29A panel lodges an application for a grant of legal assistance for a plea or trial on behalf of a person, then VLA will re-allocate the matter to another lawyer, in accordance with the allocation of work guidelines, guideline, if:

  • the person has already privately funded their own committal hearing to an amount that is significantly more than VLA would provide under a grant of legal assistance
  • the person now has no resources left to fund their own plea or trial
  • the section 29A panel member lodging the application on the person’s behalf is the same law firm which acted for the person in their committal hearing
  • the extent or other circumstances of the committal funding is considered unreasonable.

VLA may also take appropriate action against the section 29A panel member if the extent of committal funding paid for privately is considered unreasonable. ‘Appropriate action’ may include removing the law firm from the panel.

Expensive indictable crime matters

VLA may re-allocate an indictable crime matter to a VLA lawyer if:

  • VLA had first allocated the matter to a section 29A panel member
    and
  • the cost of assistance is projected to significantly exceed any relevant cost ceiling.

If VLA chooses not to re-allocate such an indictable crime matter, then VLA may require the section 29A panel member to brief any counsel (including in-house advocates) whom VLA selects. In these ways, VLA may be able to better control the costs of the case.

Expensive family law matters

If the cost of providing a grant of legal assistance in a family law matter is likely to exceed the Commonwealth’s cost ceilings, then, usually, VLA will allocate the matter to a VLA lawyer.

However, in exceptional circumstances, if VLA cannot allocate the matter to a VLA lawyer, then VLA:

  • will allocate it to a member of the section 29A panel
    and
  • may extend the amount of the grant if it is impossible to keep the costs of the matter within the Commonwealth’s cost ceilings.

Crimes (Mental Impairment and Unfitness to be Tried) Act matters

VLA’s guidelines for allocating matters under the Crimes (Mental Impairment and Unfitness to be Tried) Act 1997 are as follows:

  • matters to be heard in the County Court and in the Supreme Court are to be allocated to, either:
    • VLA’s lawyers who will, wherever possible, brief VLA’s in-house advocates
    • the Mental Health Legal Centre – if the person seeking legal assistance lodges their application through the Mental Health Legal Centre
  • matters before the Forensic Leave Panel are to be allocated to, either:
    • VLA’s lawyers
    • the Mental Health Legal Centre – if the person seeking legal assistance lodges their application through the Mental Health Legal Centre
  • counsel is to be briefed only if:
    • the matter is to be heard in the County Court or in the Supreme Court and VLA considers it is a particularly difficult matter or otherwise requires special consideration
      ​and
    • VLA has allocated the matter to VLA's lawyers, but VLA's in-house advocates are not available.

State family matters

If VLA grants legal assistance to a child under seven years old who is involved in a hearing in the Family Division of the Children’s Court, then, usually, VLA will allocate the matter to a VLA lawyer.

If a VLA lawyer cannot act for the child because of a conflict of interest, then, wherever practicable, VLA will allocate the matters to a section 29A panel member who:

  • has been accredited by VLA as a duty lawyer
    and
  • is participating in a duty lawyer scheme which VLA administers.

Social security matters at the ARO and SSAT stages and State equal opportunity matters

In the absence of compelling reasons, social security matters at the Authorised Review Officer (ARO) and Social Security Appeals Tribunal (SSAT) stages and state equal opportunity matters will be allocated to a VLA lawyer. See also: State civil law guideline 13 – social security cases at the ARO and SSAT stages.

Calls for tenders

VLA may request private law firms to conduct any type of matter. However, usually, VLA will request a tender only if a case:

  • involves high costs
  • involves a potentially very large award of damages; or
  • is otherwise an extraordinary matter, perhaps one involving the public interest.

See Payments for further discussion of tenders.