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Legal Services Agency

Pokapū Ratonga Ture

Acts administered

The Legal Services Agency is a Crown Entity established by the Legal Services Act 2000.

Functions and responsibilities

The functions of the Legal Services Agency, as described in section 92 of the Act are:

(a) to administer schemes in as consistent, accountable, inexpensive and efficient a manner as is consistent with the purpose of this Act;

(b) to fund, provide, and support community legal services for the public or any section of the public, as provided for in Part 5;

(c) to investigate and advise on any matter that is referred to it by the Minister and that relates to schemes or community legal services;

(d) to carry out any other functions that are conferred on it by this Act or any other enactment (s92).

These functions have been used as the cornerstones for developing the specific and more detailed role of the Legal Services Agency, as follows:

  • to administer schemes in as consistent, accountable, inexpensive and efficient a manner as is consistent with the Legal Services Act 2000 with particular regard to:
    a) the civil legal aid scheme
    b) the criminal legal aid scheme
    c) the duty solicitor scheme
    d) the police detention legal assistance scheme, and
    e) any other scheme or service provided for in the Act
  • to fund, provide and support community legal services for the public or any section of the public with particular regard to:
    a) setting up, contracting with and funding Community Law Centres
    b) providing or funding law related education and legal information
    c) undertaking or funding research into:
          i) existing or proposed schemes and community legal services
          ii) the unmet legal needs of communities and how they may be met
  • to investigate and advise on any matter that is referred to it by the Minister and that relates to schemes or community legal services
  • to carry out any other functions that are conferred on it by the Legal Services Act 2000 or any other enactment, including:
    a) receiving advice from the Public Advisory Committee on:
          i)   funding for individual Community Law Centres, and Community Law Centres in general
          ii)  community concerns about, and responses to schemes and community legal services
          iii) research, legal education programmes, information and forms
    b) listing approved providers according to criteria

(New criteria for listing providers were implemented from 17 February 2003)

Structure

The Agency is governed by a Board of six members appointed by the Minister of Justice. Members bring a wide range of perspectives on policy issues. The Board's governance responsibilities also include communicating with the Minister and other stakeholders to ensure their views are reflected in the Agency's planning.

The Board employs a Chief Executive to manage all the Agency's operations. All other employees of the Agency are appointed by the Chief Executive. The Board directs the Chief Executive by delegating responsibility and authority for the achievement of objectives through setting policy.

The senior management team is made up of the Chief Executive, the Manager Corporate, the Manager Grants, the Manager Information Services, the Manager Audit Services, the Manager Service Contracts, and the Manager Strategic Development.

The Manager Grants oversees four Regional Mangers who are responsible for the legal aid offices in their region. There are eleven legal aid offices throughout New Zealand and a head office in Wellington.

The staff in the eleven offices make decisions on legal aid grants, sometimes assisted by contracted and in-house specialist advisers who provide advice on complex matters. The Agency administers the Duty Solicitor Scheme operating in District Courts, and the Police Detention Legal Assistance Scheme.

While decisions on legal aid made by the Agency may be referred back to the Agency for reconsideration, an independent and separate Legal Aid Review Panel may review the decisions of the Agency.

The Agency is assisted by a Public Advisory Committee, which advises on community concerns about legal aid, legal aid access, unmet legal needs, community law centre funding, legal information and law-related education needs and areas in need of research. The committee includes representatives from the Agency's "communities of interest", that is Maori, Pacific peoples, women, people with disabilities, the elderly and youth.

Key positions

Board Chair: Appointment pending
Chief Executive: Tim Bannatyne

Organisation chart below

Records

The Agency holds the following records:
Administration
Civil/Family and Criminal Legal Aid
Community Law Centres
Duty Solicitor Scheme
Finance
Former Legal Services Board Instructions
Law-related Education
Legal Aid files
Legal Aid management and information systems
Legal Aid offices
Police Detention Legal Assistance Scheme

The Agency also holds some records from its predecessor, the Legal Services Board, including any files on applications which remain open, and closed files for the last four years.

Documents relating to decision-making processes

The Agency supplies and regularly updates a manual (Provider Manual) on legal aid to its listed providers giving information on the Agency's policies and procedures in relation to the granting and assignment of criminal and civil/family legal aid. This manual is also found on the Agency's website. All legal aid application forms and other administrative forms are included with the manual. The Agency also has application forms for funding of Community Law Centres.

A Services Practice Manual guides staff in the process of granting of legal aid, and the Legal Aid Office Manual assists staff in use of the IT system which records and processes information to enable the provision of legal aid. Other Agency manuals outlining policies and procedures are the Human Resources Manual and the Corporate Services Manual.

The Agency has a regular newsletter, LSA News sent to its providers, which outlines new policy developments and services as they are introduced.

For the general public, the Agency's website gives an overview of the Agency's operations and services, and information about how to obtain legal aid. The website is to be developed as a resource for legal information on prioritised subject areas.

Future changes

In-house legal service

In March 2003, the Minister of Justice announced that he had agreed to the establishment of a pilot in-house legal service that would provide criminal legal aid services at the Auckland and Manukau courts. The Legal Services Act 2000 provides that the Agency must consult with representatives of local lawyers and the community, and determine the maximum caseload the pilot will undertake, before employing salaried lawyers and establishing a pilot. It is expected the pilot service will be implemented in early 2004.

Implementation of the law-related education and legal information strategy

Legal information is information about rights and responsibilities under specific laws, while law-related education means courses and seminars for individuals or groups. This new strategic direction for the Agency, in service provision of legal information and law-related education for the New Zealand public, means the Agency will act as a central repository and gateway for user-friendly education and information resources. Using a variety of media, the Agency will both produce information and education resources and facilitate access to resources produced by others. The Agency's website will be a key tool in implementing the strategy.

Contact

Legal Services Agency Head Office
86-90 Lambton Quay
Wellington
PO Box 5333 DX: SP22526
Tel: (04) 495 5910
Fax: (04) 495 5911
Website: www.lsa.govt.nz
Email: info@lsa.govt.nz

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