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Study To Ensure Legal Aid Assists The Needy

Joint News Release

Commonwealth Attorney-General

The Hon. Daryl Williams AM QC MP

Minister for Finance and Administration

The Hon John Fahey

4 August 1999

Release of stage one report - "Family law case profiles"

Attorney General the Hon Daryl Williams AM QC MP and Minister for Finance and Administration the Hon John Fahey MP are pleased to release stage one of a study comparing privately funded and legally aided Family Law cases.

Stage one of the study by the Justice Research Centre makes interesting findings which challenge many views about the effective and efficient provision of legal aid.

For example, preliminary reports indicate that Family Court cases are finalised more quickly when applicants are unrepresented at the commencement of proceedings but take longer where the applicant is unrepresented at the end of the case.

The study has also found that legally aided cases in the Family Court are more quickly resolved than privately funded cases even though a higher proportion of legally aided cases remain unresolved.

Also according to the study, legally aided cases are more likely to go to hearing while self-funded cases are more likely to involve a negotiated settlement.

The aim of the study is to provide information about the use of legal aid to assist in ensuring the effective and equitable provision of legal aid funding.

This study was announced on 11 May 1998. The Government is providing $290,000 for the study to be undertaken by the Justice Research Centre, an independent public interest research organisation which is operated by the Law Foundation of New South Wales and has an established reputation for high quality empirical research.

With the release of stage one of this study we are provided with some important empirical data on the Family Law cases undertaken by Legal Aid Commissions, private solicitors and Community Legal Centres including the various dispute resolution processes used and case disposition times.

The lack of information in this area means that there has not been, previously, a detailed comparison of the legal services received by legal aid recipients and those purchased by privately funded clients.

This Government is committed to ensuring that those most in need receive the appropriate level of legal assistance.

Stage two of the study will use the results of this preliminary stage to provide a basis for systematic comparison of the services received between privately and publicly funded clients and identify any differences in factors such as costs, outcomes and client satisfaction.

The outcome of this study will assist in the effective and efficient use of legal aid funding.

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