What's new for legal aid lawyers

New family and civil application form

5 December 2017 - this is a reminder that as of 13 November 2017 the new form must be used for all family, civil and mental health applications for legal aid. The new form is available in editable PDF [PDF, 3.6 MB] and can be ordered in print.

Any applications received on the old family and civil application forms will be rejected.

If you have any issues with accessing the new form, please let us know

Section 26 Parole Act applications

5 December 2017 - after considering feedback from legal aid providers, we have reviewed the policy relating to applications made under s. 26 of the Parole Act.  As you may be aware, under the existing policy, legal aid is not available for these applications.

As a result of that review, we now accept that an application under s. 26 can potentially lead to a hearing by the Parole Board under s. 21, although that section (perhaps incorrectly) refers to s. 28 (1).  The fact that a s. 26 application can potentially lead to a hearing then brings the application within the definition of "legal services" as "taking steps that are preliminary to any proceedings" - s. 4 (1) Legal Services Act 2011, and aid can be granted.

There is currently no fixed fee for a s. 26 application, but we have determined that the $372 general parole matters fixed fee will be available for these applications.

If you have any questions, please email NSDOpsSupport@justice.govt.nz

Criminal Legal Aid Applications and Amendments to Grant

Legal Aid Services takes the health, safety and wellbeing of our people very seriously and we are always looking for ways to enhance this. Recently we have had some additional information attached to legal aid applications and amendments to grant with content that we consider extremely sensitive.

Court documents, affidavits and specialist reports detailing very specific case information can be upsetting or disturbing to read.  In almost all situations this additional information is not required by legal aid staff in assessing merits of the application or amendment.

If for some reason the application or amendment does not contain sufficient information we may ask for some supporting documentation, however, this is likely to be an exception.

We are respectfully asking for providers to consider carefully what information is submitted along with any application or amendment. If there is anything that might be considered detailed and specific and of a highly sensitive nature, we ask that you refrain from sending this information in the first instance.

Legal Aid Services is working very hard to streamline all our processes not only for the benefit of our customers and stakeholders, but also to provide a safe and healthy workplace for our people.

If you have any questions or comments please direct them to Robert Ives, Service Delivery Manager – Legal Aid Services on 04 918 8992.

Consultation on proposed changes to mental health rosters

30 November 2017 - Legal Aid Services has recently undergone changes to our operating model. One of the primary reasons for these changes is to ensure we are providing nationally consistent services to our providers and customers.

To that end, we have embarked upon a review of the way mental health legal aid cases are assigned nationwide. A consultation paper on the proposed changes is now available and we invite you to read it and provide any feedback you may have. Please visit out consultation hub (external link) to view the paper and have your say. Consultation is open until Sunday, 28 January 2018.

Hearing times for criminal grants

We recently changed the information included in our provider letters for criminal granting. Only the date and location of the next court appearance is currently given to our providers when the grant is initially assigned.

We have received feedback from providers regarding this change and have decided to refine our approach. Where the hearing time of the next court appearance is included on the application, we will now include that information in the provider letter. This is in recognition that if that information is readily available, it should be included for the new provider. Please note that hearing times are subject to change, and there is no change to existing practice where the hearing time is not apparent on the application.

Call for Expressions of Interest in Chairperson of the Performance Review Committee

The Performance Review Committee (PRC) plays a vital role in the maintenance of an efficient and ethical legal aid system, by providing advice to the Secretary for Justice on any matter relating to the performance of a legal aid provider. The Chair is responsible for ensuring this function can be properly carried out, and acts with secretarial support from the Ministry of Justice.

We are currently seeking expressions of interests from senior lawyers who would like to be considered for the position of Chair for a minimum term of two years. The successful candidate will have:

  • at least seven years’ legal experience
  • demonstrated proficiency in various areas of law
  • a strong understanding of a lawyers’ professional obligations
  • an interest in legal ethics
  • experience in, or knowledge of, providing legal aid services or specified legal services

A working knowledge of financial management in the State sector is also desirable.

Please note it is not necessary that the successful applicant be approved as a legal aid provider.

For enquiries or to apply please submit your CV, a valid Certificate of Standing, and a cover letter to legalaidprovider@justice.govt.nz by 1 December 2017.

End of year/New Year payments

14 November 2017 - The last date for direct credit payments to providers for 2017 is Thursday, 21 December. Payments will resume on Wednesday, 3 January 2018.

New family and civil legal aid application form finalised

6 November 2017 - We are pleased to announce that we have finalised the new family and civil legal aid application form. A summary of the feedback provided by you and our final decisions is available on our website (external link) .

A message from Bryre Patchell (the Legal Services Commissioner) is included in the document and in conjunction we want to say thank you to everyone who engaged with the review and who has provided us with feedback throughout this process.

A YouTube video (external link) is also available, which covers consultation themes, changes to the form by sections and how grants officers will be processing the form.

The new form is now available in editable PDF on our forms page (external link) .

Other improvements to legal aid forms

The new family and civil application form is not in the new version of the Word template package (version 13 – November 2017). However, a few other improvements have been made and the updated forms are available to download online from our forms page (external link) .

  1. Form 1a –  Criminal application (Police prosecution)
    Question 13 about how the applicant intends to plead has been removed and more space has been added for charges to be recorded.
  2. Form 24c –  Criminal D-F invoice
    Further to the What’s New article of 28 September, the sentencing fixed fee has had the condition of “if sentencing indication not accepted” removed.
  3. Forms 4, 9, 10, 19 and 20 – Non-fixed fee invoices and amendments
    Activity and claim values recorded on multiple rows will always appear.
  4. Forms 42, 44, 46 – VoaVo, ERA and PPO invoices
    The details of claim section has been updated to allow for the full date period to be recorded.

The forms that have been removed are:

  • Forms 5, 6 and 7 (Civil, Family and Mental Health applications)
  • Form 3 Criminal guilty plea invoice – this form is no longer applicable
  • Form 28 Criminal amendment – this is a duplicate of form 28b (which is to remain).

New family and civil application form update

Last week we updated you about our progress on the new family and civil legal aid application form. This is a reminder that from next Monday, 6 November 2017 there will be a short YouTube presentation revealing the new form and how to use it, ahead of the go live date of Monday, 13 November 2017.

From Monday next week, a pack of 20 printed forms will be distributed to all family, civil and mental health providers. You can expect to receive this by Thursday, 9 November 2017. There will also be an editable PDF version of the form that will be available from our website on 6 November 2017. This replaces the family, civil and mental health forms that are currently in the installer.

The new form must be used for all family, civil and mental health applications for legal aid from 13 November 2017. We will accept applications that have been signed by your clients prior to 13 November but are received on or after 13 November 2017. However, any applications that have been signed by your client’s on or after 13 November must be on the new form otherwise they will be rejected.

Criminal Case Assignment Christmas and New Year availability

31 October 2017- The end of the year is fast approaching! If you have leave planned over the Christmas break for a period of more than 5 working days, please complete the Criminal Case Assignment availability form [PDF, 567 KB] and email it to legalaidprovider@justice.govt.nz. This will allow us to identify any areas where provider coverage may be limited and will ensure that you do not get disturbed unnecessarily during your break.

New family and civil application form

As you are aware, we have recently undergone changes to our operating model. We did this to provide a nationally consistent service which would be the platform to modernise what we do and make it easier to engage with us.

Over the years we have received feedback from you that we have too many forms and they are not easy to complete. As a result we have started to review the family, civil and mental health application forms and will continue to review others in the next year.

In September, we consulted with family, civil and mental health providers.  Thanks to all who provided feedback, which has enabled us to create one form for family, civil and mental health proceedings. The form is shorter, asks questions specific to assessing eligibility and is easy to complete.

The new application form will go live on Monday, 13 November 2017. To assist you in understanding what the new application form looks like and how to use it, there will be a presentation available on YouTube from Monday, 6 November 2017. The What’s New for Legal Aid Lawyers publication will contain a link to the YouTube presentation.

Cut-off date for invoices

17 October 2017- As we approach the end of the year Legal Aid would like to ensure that it processes all provider invoices as seamlessly as possible. Please ensure that you submit all invoices as early as possible to avoid disappointment prior to the Christmas break.

Friday 8th December will be the cut-off date for payment of invoices prior to the holiday season. Invoices received after this date, may be processed and paid, but we will not be able to guarantee this.

Thank you for your cooperation in this matter.

Legal aid payments to firms

17 October 2017- Please note that this Friday, we will be publishing the Legal Aid payments made to firms for the period 1 July 2016 to 30 June 2017. This document contains  a list of the payments made to firms for legal services provided by approved providers under the legal aid schemes, and will be made available for download.

Update 20 October 2017: The document has been published and is available here:

Legal aid payments to firms 1 July 2016 to 30 June 2017 [PDF, 577 KB]

New email addresses

3 October 2017- Please note the email addresses wellington.legalaid@justice.govt.nz and auckland.legalaid@justice.govt.nz are no longer being monitored and will be closing shortly.

To ensure your email is actioned please send your email to the applicable address below:

Auckland

AKLCriminallegalaid@justice.govt.nz

AKLFamilylegalaid@justice.govt.nz

AKLCivillegalaid@justice.govt.nz

Wellington

WGNCriminallegalaid@justice.govt.nz

WGNFamilylegalaid@justice.govt.nz

WGNCivillegalaid@justice.govt.nz

 In the email subject headings:

  • please let us know what it relates to - eg Urgent/Opposed bail/Reassignment
  • include the legal aid number if known.

For applications:

  • include the date of hearing and all CRN numbers where applicable
  • must include the applicant’s and, if applicable, partner’s income details
  • must include whether the applicant has control of a trust and/or interest in property (please include property address and market value).

Sentencing fixed fee - Criminal Fixed Fee Schedules 3 July 2017 (D, E and F)

28 September 2017 - The schedules D, E and F sentencing fixed fee activity name has been amended to remove the condition of “if sentencing indication not accepted” to be consistent with the fees available under the 4 July 2016 schedules.

The PDF version of invoice form 24C has been amended on the PDF legal aid forms (external link) page. The electronic Word template form will be amended in the next round of form updates.

Wellington legal aid office number

26 September 2017- Following recent changes to our Legal Aid offices the contact number for the Wellington Legal Aid Services office has changed, and the old number (04 472 9040) is no longer active.

 To call the Wellington Legal Aid Services office, use 0800 2 LEGAL AID (0800 253 425).

 The contact legal aid (external link) page of our website has been updated to reflect this change.

Time frame for returning security authorisation letter clarified

26 September 2017 - The time frame advised for returning authorisation letters has been varied between some of the legal aid letters.

The legal aid letters have now been updated to clarify that the time frame for returning letters authorising a charge be registered over property is 15 working days. This is consistent with the time frame stated under s30(1)(b) of the Legal Services Act 2011.

Consultation on new family and civil legal aid form

The Legal Services Commissioner is seeking feedback on a proposed new family and civil legal aid application form. 

Currently, there are five different application and supplementary forms for family and civil legal aid, of varying lengths, that customers and providers are asked to fill in. The Legal Services Commissioner is proposing to combine these forms into one. 

The new form will replace the following:

  • civil general application – form 5
  • family general application – form 6
  • mental health proceedings application – form 7
  • statement of financial position – form 17
  • trust form.

Legal Services Commissioner Bryre Patchell says the current forms are overly complex and ask for unnecessary information.

‘I’m proposing one simplified form that’s designed to be easier for our customers to use and enable faster processing by the Ministry of Justice,’ says Mr Patchell. ‘I’m seeking feedback to ensure the proposed form is fit for purpose.’

To view the form and have your say, go to Consultation on new family and civil legal aid form (external link)

Signature requirements

Legal Aid Services can accept invoices and ATGs via email, post or fax, without the lead provider’s name in the signature box or a physical signature. However, the lead provider's name must appear in the details box. The invoice or amendment must continue to be made by the lead provider to meet the requirements of sections 97(1) and 28(1)(a) of the Legal Services Act 2011.

Also, where a document such as an application, invoice or amendment to grant has been emailed or faxed to a legal aid office, it is not necessary to also send a physical copy. 

Greater use of on-site audits

Following external consultation, the Audit and Monitoring Policy [PDF, 368 KB] and the Audit Terms of Reference [PDF, 701 KB] have been amended to enable greater use of on-site audits of legal aid providers, and to specify the scope and process for on-site audits.

The use of on-site audits will add value to the Ministry’s annual quality and value audit programme. Our external consultation summary report [PDF, 337 KB], details the changes made to the policy and the sector feedback received regarding these changes.

Criminal fixed fee review – reminder about determining which invoice forms to use

The second set of changes to the criminal fixed fee schedules has now been implemented. This is a reminder about how to determine which invoice form to use.

For applications received by Legal Aid Services on or after 3 July 2017, the grant schedule will have “2017” next to the activity headings. In these instances, use invoice forms 23C and 24C for fee schedules A-C and D-F respectively.

This set of changes has not affected the invoice forms for fee schedules G-J.

We encourage you to watch the video presentation (external link) which contains practical advice on the changes that have been made.

Criminal fixed fee review - second set of changes

In September 2014, the Legal Services Commissioner (the Commissioner) undertook a review of the criminal fee schedules. The review concluded in December 2014 and identified a number of areas where improvements to the design and flexibility of the fee schedules could be made, as well as areas where gaps existed.

In October 2015 the Government approved an increase in legal aid funding, staged over financial years 2016, 2017 and 2018, to enable the Commissioner to revise the criminal fee schedules including improvements to their design and flexibility, as well as addressing gaps and issues identified by the review.

In February 2016, the Commissioner announced three new sets of criminal fee schedules, with each set to be released at the start of the new financial year to coincide with each annual government budget cycle.

The first set of revised fee schedules took effect on 4 July last year, for new criminal grants of legal aid where the application was received between 4 July 2016 and 2 July 2017.

The second set applies to all new applications received on or after, Monday, 3 July 2017.

A short YouTube video presentation (external link) has been prepared with practical advice on working with the second set of changes. We encourage you to watch the presentation .

New PDF forms along with an updated installer package can be downloaded from the Ministry of Justice website from 26 June 2017.

Revised delegation of work policy

Legal Aid Services has recently revised its policy on delegation of work.

The revised policy clarifies when specific substantive matters may be temporarily delegated to another lead provider without needing the Legal Services Commissioner's approval. It also authorises an appropriately approved ‘Alternate’ who is named in the lead provider’s contract for services to submit invoices on behalf of the lead provider when the lead provider is unavailable.

You can view the revised policy from page 49 in the legal aid Grants Handbook.

Legal Aid Services Request for Family Court Documents

The Family Law Section (FLS) and Legal Aid Services (LAS) have obtained respective legal opinions on the issue of requests by grants staff to legal aid family providers seeking the supply of copies of family court documents that are held on that provider’s file.  Those opinions have unfortunately reached contrary conclusions as to whether the providers are required to forward such documentation to LAS.

FLS published a bulletin article on 20 December 2016 on this subject that was subsequently withdrawn, as it did not accurately reflect the respective current positions.  After further discussions, FLS are publishing an amended article, but LAS still does not consider that it appropriately sets out the rationale for the position being taken by LAS.

When this issue first arose some years ago, LAS (then the Legal Services Agency) obtained an opinion from Graham Taylor that concluded that the family court publication provisions then in force did not cover communications of information to the Legal Services Agency for the purposes of legal aid.

Following subsequent opinions that were obtained by the Family Law Section that reached a contrary conclusion, LAS obtained an opinion from Francis Cooke QC on 2 March 2015.  In the meantime there had also been statutory amendments that reduced the confidentiality associated with Family Court proceedings.  Mr Cooke QC’s opinion concluded that the relevant statutes “clearly” did not prevent LAS from obtaining information in order to make decisions contemplated by the Legal Services Act.  The provision of such information did not amount to “publishing” that material.  The requested material would already be on the provider’s file and it was not necessary to seek it from the family court.

LAS considers that the FLS view that in every case where a copy of a Family Court document is sought then LAS would be required, instead of making a request of the provider, need to make an application to the Family Court under r. 429 Family Courts Rules 2002 is not considered practical.  There would potentially be many thousands of such requests each year and LAS believes that this process would be administratively burdensome to both LAS and Family Court staff.  Delays in the granting process would also be likely to result.

LAS believes that an appropriate statutory amendment to s. 108 Legal Services Act and related legislation would be the most constructive way to resolve this difference of opinion.  Any such an amendment is however likely to be some while away and in the meantime, LAS will continue to make appropriate requests of legal aid providers when required in reliance upon the guidance received in its opinions.

Duty lawyer invoicing

This is a reminder for duty lawyers; when you are completing your Duty Lawyer Attendance and Invoice form that:

  • your writing on the invoice form is legible
  • the time format is used consistently – either using minutes or hours
  • your invoice is signed
  • your GST number is included, if applicable
  • the name of the court is included on the invoice, if it is not already included on the form
  • only one copy of the invoice is sent – we do not require a physical copy of an invoice if it has previously been emailed or faxed to us.

Correctly completed invoices will assist with the timely processing of your invoice. For more information see the Duty lawyer service – Operational policy.

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