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Duty lawer help for young people

How duty lawyers can help young people.

Duty lawyers are lawyers who are 'on duty' in courts or tribunals. They give free legal advice and other services to people who are representing themselves on that day. The duty lawyers in court may be staff from Victoria Legal Aid, private lawyers funded by Victoria Legal Aid, or lawyers from Community Legal Centres.

Duty lawyers may also decide to:

  • represent people who want to get their hearing adjourned
  • negotiate with the other party, or the other party's lawyer, if they have one
  • make a preliminary assessment to see whether a person may be eligible for a grant of legal assistance
  • help with urgent matters
  • refer the person to another lawyer, and sometimes to community organisations or other support services.

A duty lawyer will sometimes be able to:

  • help clients to understand their charges and other legal documents
  • represent a person in an interim hearing if appropriate.

This help will depend on a number of factors, including the time that is available. See How duty lawyers prioritise clients and cases.

A duty lawyer will not represent someone in a final hearing in court.

How duty lawyers prioritise clients and cases

Duty lawyer services are free and are not means tested. However, if the lawyer is not able to help everyone on the day, they will give priority by considering:

  • whether the person is a child aged 10 or above
  • whether the legal matter is one that fits within Victoria Legal Aid's policy guidelines about grants of legal assistance
  • the person's financial circumstances and whether they would satisfy the means test
  • if Victoria Legal Aid has previously refused a grant of legal assistance to that client
  • whether the person has seen a duty lawyer before
  • if there has been family violence
  • any other special circumstances that may make it harder for the person to represent themselves such as, literacy or language difficulties, a disability or cultural considerations.

Conflict of interest

Duty lawyers may not be able to give assistance to someone if another lawyer at Victoria Legal Aid has acted either for the other party, a co-accused, witness or victim. If there is a conflict, or perceived conflict of interest, the duty lawyer will try to refer the client to a private lawyer who does legal aid work or a legal service.

Where to find a duty lawyer

Duty lawyer services are available at:

  • Melbourne Children’s Court of Victoria – Criminal Division
  • Melbourne and Broadmeadows Children’s Court of Victoria – Family Division
  • Moorabbin Children's Court (Criminal and Family Divisions)
  • Country Children's Court (Criminal and Family Divisions)
  • metropolitan Children’s Courts (including the Neighbourhood Justice Centre (Criminal Division only).

See Legal Helo Online—Services(opens in a new window) for details about the days when our lawyers are on duty at these courts.

More information

Legislation

Legal Aid Act 1978 (Vic)

  • s. 3—defines duty lawyer work
  • s. 26(1)—there is no change for duty lawyer services

See Legal Aid Act 1978 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

For the VLA duty lawyer roster see Legal Help Online—Services(opens in a new window)

For more details about our duty lawyer services see—Get help at court(opens in a new window).

Updated