Victoria Legal Aid

System unavailable: Help Before Court and Duty Lawyer Data Tool

The Data Tool will no longer be in use from 5.30 pm Friday 10 March.

The tool has been used by some private practitioners to enter Help Before Court (HB4C) services and invoices and recording duty lawyer services, such as at the Moorabbin Justice Centre.

We have now determined that the tool cannot be enhanced to meet adequate security requirements and ensure the safety of the information – including personal and sensitive data about clients. As such, we will be retiring the tool effective immediately.

We will prioritise the development of a more automated process in ATLAS. This will streamline data processing, reduce administration, make it easier for practitioners to invoice for services and support timely payment. ATLAS already meets our required security settings.

We are currently designing and developing this functionality, and expect it to be available for use in the coming months. We will be working to implement the new process as quickly as possible.

For now, please use the invoicing templates to submit service details for payment. Any service details entered into the tool prior to the outage will be processed in the usual way, you do not need to resubmit those claims.

We apologise for the inconvenience caused during the outage and the upcoming period and appreciate you reverting to the manual invoicing process. We acknowledge this interim arrangement may create some additional paperwork, but request that you continue to submit invoices as soon as possible after the delivery of services so we can process payments in a timely way.

We appreciate your understanding while we complete this important review. We will provide an update during the course of our development and further details on the new ATLAS function, prior to it becoming available.

Alternative invoice processing

Private practitioners providing Help Before Court services will now need to use the invoice template to submit claims for processing. Once complete, please email the invoice to the office who has given you the referral.

For private practitioners using the tool to record duty lawyer work, such as at the Moorabbin Justice Centre, please continue to use the invoice template to confirm hours of work and most importantly the number of clients seen. This will ensure the ongoing integrity of our data collection.

This will not affect claims currently awaiting payment, which will be processed in the usual timeframes.

For queries regarding this temporary disruption to the Data Tool, please contact Simon Walker on or Alicia Watkins on

About duty lawyer services

Duty lawyer services are provided at a number of courts and tribunals across Victoria. Duty lawyers may be in-house staff or private lawyers we fund.

To ensure members of the public who need help from a duty lawyer receive high quality services, private duty lawyers are accredited by us. This is known as a rostered private practitioner duty lawyer scheme.

What duty lawyers do

Duty lawyers help people who are attending a court or tribunal hearing and who require assistance on the day. This service is free and can cover:

  • child protection
  • youth crime
  • adult summary crime
  • intervention orders
  • family matters
  • some civil matters, such as Mental Health Tribunal hearings.

Help provided by the duty lawyer depends on the person’s circumstances, and may include information, legal advice or representation in court. For duty lawyer services for adult criminal offences, an income test applies to all accused not in custody.

How we manage the schemes

Each rostered private practitioner duty lawyer scheme has a co-ordinator who may be from one of our offices or an approved private firm in the region.

To become a duty lawyer, private practitioners must meet the criteria for accreditation. The co-ordinator must also identify a need to increase the number of duty lawyers in the region.

We expect duty lawyers to meet the standards of service outlined in the:

Private practitioner duty lawyer scheme to deal with conflicts

A pilot scheme has been introduced where private practitioners can work in summary crime, youth crime and family violence matters if the Victoria Legal Aid duty lawyer is unable to act due to a conflict of interest.

This scheme is operating in courts where we have not previously relied on private duty lawyers. It does not alter arrangements in place for existing rostered private practitioner duty lawyer schemes.

For more information see Private practitioner duty lawyer scheme to deal with conflicts.

Contact us

The director of Legal Practice is responsible for the administration of rostered private practitioner duty lawyer schemes.

Enquiries and issues on how you can join one of the schemes can be addressed to Michelle Tickner, Executive Assistant to the Director, Legal Practice.

If your enquiry relates to an upcoming court case please contact Legal Help.

Disclaimer: The material in this print-out relates to the law as it applies in the state of Victoria. It is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this print-out without getting legal advice about their own particular situations. Victoria Legal Aid disclaims any liability howsoever caused to any person in respect of any action taken in reliance on the contents of the publication.

We help Victorians with their legal problems and represent those who need it most. Find legal answers, chat with us online, or call us. You can speak to us in English or ask for an interpreter. You can also find more legal information at

Reviewed 17 March 2023

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