A Legal Advice Service is the provision of fact-specific legal advice to a Service User in response to a request for assistance to resolve specific legal problems.
The Service User can be an individual or a person seeking advice on behalf of an organisation or a group.
Same solicitor, same appointment, but more than one problem, parties, or funding categories
If a Services User receives advice for more than one problem type from the same lawyer during the same appointment, under the National Data Standards Manual this is required to be counted as one Legal Advice. The different problem types are simply recorded in the service characteristics.
CLASS will also allow for the recording of time spent on each Legal Advice (same categories as available for Legal Task) so that Centres can understand how much time on average they are spending on Legal Advices.
Many Centres have asked if more than one Legal Advice should be recorded where the Service User brings up several different events, legal issues, and/or disputes in the one appointment. Two key problems emerge when all the advice is recorded as just one Legal Advice:
- Where there are several different Other Parties (one relating to event 1, one relating to event 2, etc), it can be hard in the future when doing a conflict check to determine which Other Party related to which event and legal problem
- Where a centre has a number of different funding programs, and the solicitor's advice is in relation to two different legal issues for which the Centre is funded from two different funding streams, in effect the solicitor is performing two separate pieces of work, and Centres have argued that they should be able to capture the service against each funding program which would mean two separate Legal Advices.
In early 2020, we began consultation on a proposal to allow for this scenario to be recorded as multiple Legal Advice records. State and territory sector peaks will be leading consultation with their members so please contact your peak for more information or to provide your feedback. If any changes are agreed, this Guide will be updated.
Until this consultation has been finalised, Centres are encouraged to, wherever possible, use the rule "Same client, same solicitor, same appointment time = One Legal Advice." However Centres also should use commonsense when recording advices.
The following rules of thumb should be used:
- Record the first Legal Advice appointment provided to a new Service User as one Legal Advice, noting that an initial advice is often very broad, covers alot of ground, and frequently operates as a triaging appointment to determine which issues the Centre needs to provide more advice on, and which matters need to be referred out to other organisations
- The exception is where the one solicitor is themselves funded through different funding categories and needs the Service recorded against each - see the Indu case study in Case Studies below
- Any relevant follow-up appointments can then be recorded as separate Legal Advices for each of the different legal problems against relevant funding categories and with only the relevant Other Parties
- If the Centre brings a Service User in to get advice in relation to different events involving different areas of law, with the appointments scheduled back-to-back in order to be convenient for the Service User, then the Centre might exercise discretion and count these are two Legal Advices, even if it is the same solicitor providing the advice.
Same solicitor: different method
Where the same solicitor provides the same advice to a Service User using more than one method, for example where advice is provided in person, and the solicitor provides the Service User with notes of the advice, it is counted as just one Legal Advice.
Where the same solicitor provides follow-up advice after the initial advice, for example when reviewing their own advice they realise they may not have been very clear about time limitations, this should be counted as the same Legal Advice – it is not an additional advice.
If a follow-up of an initial advice is undertaken by a different solicitor – for example, the first Legal Advice is provided by a volunteer solicitor, then reviewed the next day by a Centre solicitor who contacts the Service User to get more information and then to provide more advice – then this is a second Legal Advice.
Subsequent contact by Service User
Where a Service User makes subsequent contact with a Centre with additional or new information relating to the same legal problem, and advice is provided - whether by the same solicitor or a new solicitor - it is counted as a separate Legal Advice.
Legal Advice vs Information or Referral
Where information is provided in the same session as a Legal Advice Service, it is not separately counted as an Information Service.
See Information Service for clarification as to the difference between Information and Legal Advice.
Referrals may be recorded as part of a Legal Advice (and in CLASS, these are picked up in the referral count for NPA reports).
Legal Advice v Legal Task
It is common for a Centre to provide a Legal Advice and a Legal Task (eg reviewing Service User’s court documents and redrafting) during one advice appointment. When this occurs, it should be recorded as one Legal Advice and one Legal Task. In other words, a Legal Task does not subsume a Legal Advice (or vice versa): they are two separate Services.
Reviewing a Service User’s documents and researching the law to prepare legal advice for the Service User is all part of a Legal Advice, regardless of the length of time spent or complexity of the legal matters, so long as it does not involve any interaction with a third party or preparing documents for a Service User to use in legal proceedings. In CLASS, these activities can be recorded in the Legal Advice as Actions.
If the Centre does need to contact a third party while reviewing a Service User’s documents (eg contacting Centrelink to check on a review date for the Service User), then the Service is not a Legal Advice, it is a Legal Task. In these circumstances, as a matter of legal practice / privacy law, the Centre will need to ask the Service User to sign an Authority/Consent to Provide Information to the Centre (this authority has a range of different names). Obtaining this Authority is in itself is a good indicator that the service being provided is more than a Legal Advice. (Note it might also be a type of ongoing legal service, see below).
Legal Advice v Duty Lawyer
Legal advice provided by a duty lawyer to a Service User at a court or tribunal is not counted as a Legal Advice Service but as a Duty Lawyer Service.
Legal Advice v Representation or Ongoing Legal Support Service
Legal advice provided in the course of a representation or Ongoing Legal Support Service is not counted as a separate Legal Advice service, but is simply part of that ongoing service. In CLASS, the contact with the Service User may be recorded within the Representation Service or Ongoing Legal Support Service as an Action.
Case studies and examples
Page version history:
2 August 2019: Whole Page substantially rewritten to clarify in what circumstances different Legal Advices should be recorded
March 2019: Draft text provided with questions for feedback.