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Help Before Court information for VLA managers

Information for Victoria Legal Aid managers about service targets, rostering for Help Before Court and demand management.

Service targets and rostering Help Before Court duties

Best practice tip: Consider service targets, rostering guidelines and Summary Crime workload and demand management guidelines when creating Help Before Court duties.

Help Before Court service targets

Most offices have either 220 or 440 services per annum as a target. If you are uncertain about your office’s service targets, please reach out to the Associate Director, Summary Crime.

Service targets are based on how many Help Before Court services a lawyer will reasonably provide over a year. The calculation is based on:

  • a lawyer undertaking 5 rostered duties per fortnight in accordance with workload guidance
  • an average of four Help Before Court services being provided each rostered duty
  • 30 grants of aid approved across the course of 12 months.

When monitoring service targets, an ‘advice-only’ appointment is counted as one service and the at-court appearance is counted as another.

Rostering Help Before Court advice duties

Rostering should be determined by your ongoing analysis of Help Before Court demand, your service targets and workload guidance.

We recommend that you quarantine blocks of time throughout the week for Help Before Court advice appointments, and that one lawyer is rostered for each of these blocks as a duty. You may prefer to roster the duty in full day or half-day blocks. Rostering standard blocks of time will make it easier for the Help Before Court triage team to book appointments and will ensure that staff lawyers can plan their week.

To determine how many hours to roster per week, a starting point should be:

  • presume around 50% of Help Before Court matters will be eligible for both advice and advocacy
  • divide your office in-house service target for the year by 52 weeks

For example: if an office target is 440 services in a year, the total number of advice appointments would be 220. Each appointment (plus follow-up) requires a full hour, so a manager would roster 220 hours of advice appointments per year or between 4 and 5 hours of appointments per week.

Also, workflow, demand, and capacity will not be regular, so you should monitor and adjust as required. On occasions when no in-house VLA lawyer is available to deliver a Help Before Court advice service, consider referring the matter to a panel practitioner where possible in your area.

Rostering Help Before Court advocacy duties

To the extent that it is possible, ensure duty rosters are created sufficiently in advance so that lawyers have the best chance of ensuring continuity of service provision.

Demand management

The introduction of Help Before Court service provision does not affect the 2017 summary crime demand management guidelines.

We recommend that you design and implement a uniform approach that works for your office to ensure:

  • where a matter arrives through Help Before Court but is eligible for a grant of aid – the lawyer diverts the matter out of the Help Before Court system and opens a litigation file.
  • lawyers are not ‘over-servicing’ Help Before Court matters and are containing work within the timeframes recommended in this guide.
  • your office has a uniform file management system for Help Before Court matters that ensures matters can be tracked for appearance dates and follow up tasks. That system will need to operate effectively within existing office systems.
  • where there are lawyers who are exceeding the workload and demand management guidelines, address the issue within the regular VLA supervision framework
  • where there is an emerging trend across your office of lawyers exceeding the workload and demand management guidelines, address it with the Summary Crime Associate Director.