The Legal Aid Commission of New South Wales is a publicly funded government organisation which provides legal services to socially and economically disadvantaged people across the state in areas including criminal law, family law and some areas of civil law.
It currently employs over 1,300 people, has 25 offices, 2 satellite offices and operates in 243 outreach locations.
What does the Legal Aid Commission do?
The Commission provides these services through its own employed lawyers (known as ‘in-house lawyers’), through assigning cases to private law firms who are then paid by the organisation and by engaging ‘duty lawyers’ – which are private lawyers retained to undertake any number of cases in a particular court on a given day.
Legal Aid panels
Private lawyers can apply to any of several ‘panels’ managed by the Commission, which in the context of criminal law have included:
Summary panel (for less serious cases),
Indictable panel (for cases that can be committed to a higher court, such as the District Court),
Serious and Complex panel (for the most serious cases), and
Appellate panel (for appeals to the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal).
Panel members are permitted to undertake certain types of work, depending on the panel they are on.
For example, only lawyers on the Serious and Complex panel are assigned the most serious and lengthy cases, such as murder and terrorism cases, fraud cases with more than 30 counts and/or a total value of more than $500,000 and jury trials expected to last for more than 20 days.