An Information Service is the direct provision of information to a Service User in response to an enquiry about the law, legal systems and processes, or legal and other support services. The information is of general application and not specific to the circumstances of the Service User.
The Service User can be the person who has the legal issue, or it can be a third party enquiring on behalf of a person with a legal issue.
An Information Service involves a direct communication and/or a provision of material to an individual.
Methods of service provision
An Information Service involves a direct communication and/or a provision of material to the Service User, and can be provided:
- By phone, in person, via online chat, by letter, fax, email, direct message, videoconference
- By legal or non-legal staff or volunteers
- From an office or from an outreach event eg talking to a person at a stall at a fair day / NAIDOC Week
The following are not Information Services as they are not a direct communication between a Centre staff member / volunteer and an individual:
- Chatbots or other autonomous services that help a person navigate the website or build a useful resource (eg form-generators) but do not involve direct interaction between the Service User and a Centre staff member / volunteer
- Downloads of factsheets, self-help guides, or other resources from the Centre website
- Leaflets about the law picked up by people – eg in reception area or on a stall at a fair
- Social media posts/tweets or e-bulletins available to all followers / subscribers.
Community Projects such as community education can be instead used to record the work listed above (see Community Projects).
Information Service v Legal Advice
The information provided by a Centre in an Information Service is of general application and not specific to the circumstances of the Service User. For this reason, a Centre does not need to obtain the name, details, or full details about the Service User’s legal inquiry before providing an Information Service.
If the information provided by the Centre is specific to the circumstances of the Service User (or the person for whom the Service User is seeking the information), then this is Legal Advice, and the Centre is required to obtain the name, details and full instructions of the person with the legal issue. See the Risk Management Guide for details about the difference between an Information Service and Legal Advice.
Secondary Consultations – a type of Information Service
Information Services can be provided to a third party seeking information on behalf of another person. The third party may be:
- A person inquiring on behalf of a friend or family member, or
- A non-legal worker or lawyer from another agency or Centre seeking information in relation to a client of that other agency – this is what many Centres call a "secondary consultation".
The Risk Management Guide provides guidance on the difference between providing an Information Service and providing Legal Advice to third parties. It states that where the discussions between the Centre and the other agency are held in such a way that:
- the client is not and cannot be identified, and
- there is no disclosure of individual information that would breach client privilege or give rise to an inference (or actuality) of the Centre being regarded as acting for the client,
then the exchange should be seen as information and not advice. (See Risk Management Guide paragraph 6.7.23, also paragraphs 2.19.5, 6.7.24-27 and 8.5.11-15).
In CLASS these secondary consultations should be recorded as an Information Service.
How many Information Services?
Where information is provided about one or more problems at the same time, it should be recorded as one Information Service. Different problem types may then be recorded against the Information Service.
Where the same information is provided to a person by more than one method at the same time (for example by telephone, followed by mailing a pamphlet), it is counted as one Information Service. Note: If there is substantial variation in the information, then you should record them as separate Information Services.
Where information is provided to a person in the course of providing another Service, it should not be counted as an Information Service - it is subsumed by the other Service. For example:
- Any information provided in the course of a Legal Advice is not counted separately as an Information Service, but is just part of the Legal Advice
- Any information provided by a duty lawyer to a person in a court or tribunal is not counted as an Information Service, but is just part of the Duty Lawyer Service.
The exception is where a referral is provided at the same time as an Information Service – they can be counted separately are often provided at the same time as a referral is made, and they are counted separately.
In general, administrative tasks such as booking appointments for legal advice sessions are not Information Services. Of course, legal information is frequently also provided while making a booking and may be recorded.
In CLASS, Centres using the Triage process often do not record an Information Service at the time of making an appointment, to save on data entry time. Instead they create a Triage Service which contains all relevant information needed for the appointment. After the advice appointment, the Centre then upgrades the Triage Service to:
- Legal Advice if the Service User attends and receives advice, or
- Information Service if the Service User does not attend the appointment.
Refer to CLASS Documentation on Triage.