The last date for direct credit payments to providers for 2016 is Thursday, 22 December. Payments will resume on Wednesday, 4 January 2017.
The end of the year is fast approaching! Remember, if you have leave planned over the festive season for a period of more than 5 working days, please complete the Criminal Case Assignment availability form and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
10 November 2016 - Due to a fault with the legal aid operating system, the processing of legal aid applications, invoices and correspondence may be delayed. We are working to ensure that service delivery timeframes are maintained with minimal disruption as soon as possible.
If you have an urgent request and have not received a response, please let your legal aid office know. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.
31 October 2016 - As part of the Ministry's move to continually improve services for our customers and optimising legal aid processes, our new optimised processes go-live on Monday 7 November 2016. You may have seen this attachment that shows how we are changing the way we work [PDF, 368 KB].
From Monday, 7 November 2016, the reassessment process will be removed to leave only the reconsideration process available for challenging Commissioner decisions.
This will mean that any decisions you are aggrieved by will always be reconsidered by someone other than the person who made the original decision, in a timely manner. We encourage you and your clients to use the revised form 11 - application for reconsideration. [PDF, 485 KB]
If you have any questions, please contact your local grants office.
20 October 2016 – All legal aid payments made to firms during the period 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2016 can be found in the below attachment.
The payments to firms are for legal aid services provided by listed providers under the legal aid schemes. The payments include the fees of listed providers, including those claimed on behalf of other listed providers, and disbursements for general office costs, travel costs, and special disbursements, which include fees for agents, expert witnesses, forensic tests, interpreters and special reports, such as medical or valuation reports.
28 September 2016 - Following consultation with legal aid providers and the legal professional bodies, we have finalised the new contract and practice standards for legal aid providers.
The new contract is more streamlined and clarifies existing rights and obligations. It might look different, but nothing of substance has changed. We have added a few minor obligations for providers that reflect good professional practice, and that won’t be onerous for providers. For example, we have included steps a provider and their firm must take before releasing proceeds of proceedings to legal aid clients.
We received consultation feedback from the New Zealand Law Society (NZLS) and a small number of providers. The NZLS considered the proposed improvements will help providers more clearly understand their rights and obligations. There was general support for the new obligations and some suggestions about amending them to make compliance more practicable.
We’ve taken this feedback into account and, as a result, we believe the final documents are more effective, transparent and robust.
We will send you the new contract in mid-October and it needs to be signed and returned to us before the current contract expires on 30 November.
More information is available on the Ministry website:
13 September 2016 - As part of the Ministry’s move to continually improve services for our customers we are changing the way we administer legal aid.
The first phase of this transformation, involved closing our three smallest offices (Hamilton, Whangarei and Dunedin) in 2015 to improve the consistency and standardisation of our legal aid granting functions.
Having reviewed the way we administer granting and debt management, we will be moving to a new operating model that will optimise our processes for both granting and debt management. It will also build the foundation for future technology advancements and digitisation.
The changes involve reducing granting offices from eight to two in Takapuna and Wellington. We will also be creating an organisational structure focussed on national delivery of legal aid services.
As a result you can expect greater consistency in granting decisions. You can also be assured that existing knowledge and capability will be consolidated.
To continue to deliver quality legal aid services the office consolidations will be phased in from late January to late June 2017. Please refer to the attachment that shows how we are ‘Changing the way we work’ [PDF, 368 KB].
We will keep you informed of developments.
4 August 2016 - An issue has been identified with the latest version of tax invoice 32a - Care of Children/Guardianship proceedings. Version 07/16 of form 32a, which is included in the latest Word template installer (version 10) incorrectly, has a cap of 9 units on the fixed fee for Defended hearings (s) – Preparation, as illustrated below.
We have raised this issue with the external supplier, who manages our Word template forms. They are currently working on a replacement form to address this issue.
In the interim, lawyers who need to claim more than 9 units (hours) for Defended hearings (s) – Preparation, will need to use the PDF version of the forms found on our website(external link).
29 July 2016 - The policy for criminal assignment availability is being updated to improve how Legal Aid Services allocate criminal cases.
From 1 August 2016, if you are unavailable to take criminal assignments for a period of 5 or more working days (instead of the current 10 working days) you must complete the Criminal Assignment Availability form or detail your unavailability in writing. The completed form or written notification should be sent by email to the Provider Services team at email@example.com and copied to your local legal aid office. The Provider Services team will remove you from the applicable criminal case assignment list for the period of unavailability to prevent cases being assigned.
If you have any questions about this change, please contact your local legal aid office.
28 July 2016 - The Expert request form (Form 50) is now available in an editable PDF format, which enables the form to be filled in online. The editable form can be found on the PDF legal aid forms page of the Ministry of Justice website.
Please note: Form 50 is not included in the Word template installer.
21 July 2016 - In May this year, we sought feedback on proposed additions and changes to our Legal Aid Provider Manual to incorporate Part 1a – Limited Approval Operational Policy and Part 1b – Temporary Approval Operational Policy. Overall, the proposed additions and changes reflect recent amendments to the Legal Services (Quality Assurance) Regulations 2011 that improve and streamline the legal aid provider approval process.
The proposed changes were circulated to the New Zealand Law Society (NZLS), the New Zealand Bar Association, the Criminal Bar Association, and the Auckland District Law Society. The NZLS published the consultation documents in Law Points and we received a response from the NZLS’ Legal Services Committee on behalf of the organisation.
We wish to thank those who responded for their feedback. Your comments were much appreciated and assisted in clarifying and finalising the policies.
The consultation feedback document and updated polices have now been finalised and can be viewed on the below links.
28 June 2016 - This is a reminder that the Legal Services Commissioner has revised the fee schedules for criminal legal aid.
New criminal fixed fee schedules for A-F(external link) are being introduced on Monday, 4 July 2016.
All new grants of legal aid received by Legal Aid Services on or after 4 July 2016 will attract the new fee schedules. Existing grants under the 1 July 2013 fee schedules can move to the 4 July 2016 schedules if and when an amendment to grant is approved for any activity.
A short presentation has been prepared with practical advice on working with the first set of changes resulting from the criminal fixed fee review. We encourage you to watch the presentation which is available on YouTube(external link).
27 June 2016 - a new form and disbursement are being implemented for providers who need to engage an expert or expert witness. The form will enable Legal Aid Services staff to make timely decisions on requests and provide better access to information where a legal aid provider requests an expert or expert witness disbursement. Both the new form and disbursement will apply to all jurisdictions.
A new form has been created to capture all the information Legal Aid Services needs to know in order to consider and/or approve a request for an expert or expert witness. This form is intended to prevent requests for further information which can result in delays in decision-making. Form 50:
A new disbursement is now available to legal aid providers for use of an Expert Consultancy Service to locate a suitable expert or expert witness for a legal aid case. Providers may engage with an Expert Consultancy Service and on receipt of the information and contact details of a suitable expert, seek the disbursement from Legal Aid Services to cover the cost of the service. However, providers can still choose to locate a suitably qualified expert themselves, without the assistance of a consultancy service. The following disbursements are pre-approved where an Expert Consultancy Service is used to locate a suitable expert for a legal aid case. Scenarios not covered by these two disbursements will be managed by amendment to grant.
a. $250 - NZ based expert(s)
b. $500 - Only overseas experts available due to uncommonly used skills or expertise required
You can find more information about this disbursement and what constitutes an Expert Consultancy Service on page 96 of the Legal Aid Services Grants Handbook:
9 June 2016 – On 8 June 2016 Legal Aid Services published the Legal Aid Lawyer Induction Guide. The guide provides new legal aid lawyers with useful information for navigating legal aid processes and procedures. It will also be useful for existing providers seeking a refresh on legal aid. Most of the content is sourced from the Grants Handbook. Prior to finalising the guide, we consulted with legal aid providers and the New Zealand Law Society to ensure it meets the needs of new legal aid lawyers and is fit for purpose.
2 May 2016 – We are seeking comment from the legal profession on the proposed addition and changes to the Legal Aid Provider Manual to incorporate Part 1a – Temporary Approval Operational Policy and Part 1b – Limited Approval Operational Policy.
On 1 November 2015, the Legal Services (Quality Assurance) Amendment Regulations 2015 were enacted. The Regulations allow the Secretary for Justice to approve lawyers who do not normally do legal aid work (or who are approved to do a different type of legal aid work) on a one-off or limited basis.
Details of our proposed operational policy changes are outlined in a consultation paper.
Please email your feedback to Legal Aid Provider Services at firstname.lastname@example.org by 15 June 2016.
30 March 2016 – As a result of feedback received during the criminal fixed fee review, we have made changes to the criminal high cost case (HCC) policy and case plans. The changes are:
From 1 April 2016 all new cases entering into the HCC framework should use the updated case plans. It is not mandatory to transition existing cases on to these forms.
8 March 2016 – A new installer package for Legal Aid forms is now available for downloading (version 9.1). The following tax invoice forms have been updated to use the correct forum category (FC) rates:
No other changes have been made.