Non-Legal Support Service – Discrete


A Discrete Non-­Legal Support Service is a discrete, one-­off non­-legal service provided by a Centre directly to a Service User to assist and support them to resolve specific, non-­legal problems.

For the purposes of the Guide, a “non-legal problem” is an issue being experienced by a Service User that cannot be resolved by asserting or defending their legal rights through legal processes.

The service is provided one-on-one to an individual Service User, taking into account the person’s individual circumstances, in the context of a professional staff/client relationship where the staff member is not a lawyer and is not holding themselves out to be a lawyer. 

What roles commonly provide non-legal support?

Common roles include:

  • counsellor
  • client support officer
  • social worker
  • financial counsellor
  • alcohol or other drugs counsellor
  • mental health caseworker
  • court support worker
  • domestic violence caseworker
  • case coordinator
  • disability advocate
  • housing support worker (as opposed to a tenants advocate)
  • Aboriginal Family Advocate
  • Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander field officer, community liaison officer, Aboriginal legal access worker – the roles of these workers are often very broad, covering a range of work supporting Indigenous people to access legal services, including locating clients to bring them to court or to legal or other appointments.

Is the service non-legal simply because a non-lawyer provides it?

Not necessarily. Some Centres’ legal practice management involves non-lawyers in the provision of legal services.

Firstly, in some areas such as tenancy or social security law, a Centre may employ experienced advocates to provide advice, assist a person to prepare for legal proceedings, attend a Tribunal Duty Advocacy scheme (particularly in the case of tenancy law), and/or represent the Service User in the relevant Tribunal. These advocates may not be solicitors (and are required to advise the Service User of this fact), but they are experts in their area of law. In some cases, the advocates may not be directly supervised by a solicitor; rather they are supervised by an expert nominated person who is very experienced in the specialist legal area – the Risk Management Guide calls these experts a “nominated person” for the purposes of insurance. 

Secondly, it is common for Centres to use staff or volunteers who are not lawyers to undertake work that is part of a legal service. For example:

  • A paralegal staff member or a student volunteer might review a Service User’s documents and draft a written advice, which is then reviewed by a solicitor
  • A financial counsellor might draft submissions for an AFCA review.

In these instances, the work is subject to the review and supervision of a solicitor, so it is clearly legal work.

One less clear area is where a non-legal worker helps a Service User fill out paperwork for a court or tribunal. As this involves the assertion of legal rights and advice about legal processes, this should be treated as legal work. This means it should be done under supervision of a Centre solicitor and should be recorded as a Legal Task (or Action within one of the ongoing legal service types) rather than non-legal support.

Non­-Legal Support Service ­- Discrete or Ongoing?

The difference between a Discrete and an Ongoing Non-­Legal Support Service is that a Discrete Non-­Legal Support Service is usually one appointment for a particular session (eg one financial counselling appointment), in which the Centre does not commit to provide ongoing support past that particular session.

In an Ongoing Service, the Centre makes a clear decision and commitment to provide support to the Service User over a period of time.

The National Data Standards Manual identifies Non-­Legal Support as the service type, with Discrete and Ongoing being sub­ categories. In NPA Reports, Ongoing Non-­Legal Support Services are currently counted as one Non­-Legal Support Service, however Centres can differentiate between Discrete and Ongoing Non-­Legal Support Services in their own reports.

How many Services?

Where a Service User receives one event of non-­legal support from a Centre (eg one appointment), it is counted as one Non-Legal Support Service.

Where the same Non­-Legal Support is provided to a person by more than one method at the same time (for example by telephone, followed by an email), it is counted as one Non-­Legal Support Service.

Where non-­legal support is provided to a Service User in the course of providing another service, it is counted as a Non-Legal Support Service and is not subsumed by the other service.

Non-legal support service v Information Service v Community Project services

A non-legal support service is a service provided one-on-one to an individual Service User, taking into account the person’s individual circumstances, in the context of a client/professional staff relationship. 

Legal or non-legal information or resources provided by receptionist staff or volunteers during a referral or as part of an intake process is not a Non-Legal Support Service – it should be recorded as an Information Service. 

Non­legal information delivered to a group of people by a non­legal worker is a Community Education Service.  The names of individual people do not need to be recorded, and the information is not tailored to the circumstances of every individual attending.

If (as is commonly the case) an attendee at a Community Education session asks questions about their own circumstances, the non-legal worker should engage with them outside of the group to follow-up on individual support, which may then be recorded as a Non-Legal Support Service.

Case studies and examples

Case Study ­- Fleur non-­legal support

Ready Reckoner ­- When you do more than advice