Legal Support for Those Going It Alone
Tuesday, 24th June 2014 at 12:48 pm
A new Federally funded program, which will support people representing themselves in Federal and Federal Circuit Courts in NSW, Victoria, ACT and Tasmania, is under construction at Justice Connect, with the program due to open its doors in August.
Newly appointed Manager, Joanna Mansfield, said she was in the process of appointing a small team of staff who would coordinate about 100 pro bono lawyers providing the service, and oversee fit outs of the offices in court buildings in Sydney and Melbourne, where the service would be based.
“This is an exciting opportunity for Justice Connect to extend the reach of pro bono lawyers to assist people who represent themselves in the Federal Courts, and to help them navigate the court process efficiently,” Mansfield said.
“This service is being established in recognition of the challenges faced by self-represented litigants, and also to help ensure that as they navigate the court system, the courts can operate as efficiently as possible.”
Mansfield said lawyers would assist people who were unable to afford private lawyers and were ineligible for legal aid by ensuring they had the correct documentation and information for court appearances. They will also provide legal advice, assist in drafting documents and court forms, advise on dispute resolution options and court processes.
Justice Connect said it was currently in discussion with several law firms that want to support the appointment-based service as part of their pro bono efforts.
The Federal Attorney General’s Department service has committed to funding over four years and the service is national, with services being provided in other states by QPILCH, Justice Net SA and the WA Legal Aid Commission.
“It will not provide support for the specialised areas of immigration or family law matters, and eligibility criteria will apply. The service will operate out of the Federal Court in Sydney (Law Court Building, Queens Square) and Melbourne (Owen Dixon Commonwealth Law Courts Building, William Street) and will provide phone and video conferencing access for people from Tasmania and ACT who cannot attend consultations in person,” Mansfield said.
Justice Connect CEO Fiona McLeay said the new program was an exciting development in the services and support offered by Justice Connect.
“Our aim is to promote access to justice by linking people that can’t get legal representation any other way by connecting them with lawyers who give their time for free. We anticipate this service will support many people determined to help themselves, and ensure they have the opportunity to put the best case forward for themselves that they can,” she said.
More about the Self-Representation Service is available here