Identifying trials

Identifying trials

Barristers in the Trial Counsel Development Program are given unique training opportunities to partner with senior trial advocates in up to three trials each.

Victoria Legal Aid has recruited over 45 senior advocates as Lead Counsel in the program, with a mix of Senior Juniors and Silks.

This program relies on solicitors on the section 29A panels to identify appropriate trials early. Suitable trials are those which:

  • are likely to run to trial and are unlikely to resolve;
  • you would expect to run for approximately one to two weeks and are not necessarily complex;
  • would not ordinarily attract funding for Junior Counsel;
  • are ready to start on their listing date.

See Identifying trials for more information, including how to apply for a grant of legal assistance.

Please note: as of 2019, trials will not be eligible for the program unless the instructing firm pays itemised disbursements directly out of ATLAS.

Once a trial is included in the program, practitioners brief Lead Counsel on the program list. Junior Counsel will be allocated in consultation with instructing solicitors after Lead Counsel has been briefed.  (This is usually done by the VLA Chambers Advocates Clerks ascertaining the availability of the juniors and providing a list to the instructor).

An alternative pathway to briefing through the TCDP is where practitioners who have briefed one of the Juniors at committal may contact the associate director, Chambers to discuss bringing in Lead Counsel under the TCDP for the subsequent trial.

Steps in applying for a grant of legal assistance

Solicitors on section 29A panels should follow the steps below for trials that may be suitable for the program:

  1. The applicant's solicitor applies for a grant of legal assistance using the standard trial template used for single counsel.
  2. The solicitor assesses whether the trial is suitable for the program, and sends a written request to tcdp@vla.vic.gov.au for the Associate Director, Chambers to review.
  3. The Associate Director, Chambers decides the suitability of the trial. As this decision does not fall under the Legal Aid Act 1978, it is not subject to internal review rights. If the Associate Director, Chambers decides that the trial is not suitable for the program, a standard grant will apply.
  4. If the Associate Director, Chambers decides the trial is suitable for the program, an approval number will be given to the solicitor along with the details of Lead Counsel who are available to be briefed for the trial.
  5. Once the trial is approved for the program, the solicitor must apply to Victoria Legal Aid for an extension of aid in ATLAS+ using the program template. The template prompts the solicitor to confirm that they have received approval from the Associate Director, Chambers and to quote the approval number under the TCDP. If the solicitor has not received confirmed approval in writing from the Associate Director, Chambers, the extension cannot be submitted through ATLAS+.
  6. The solicitor runs the trial, and claims all costs under the invoices issued specifically for the program.
  7. Payments to counsel must be made directly out of the grant of aid in ATLAS.  For the purposes of the TCDP, firms are not to pay funds as a lump sum into their trust accounts and pay out disbursements from there.
  8. The solicitor must keep the Associate Director, Chambers or Advocates Clerk informed on the status of the trial throughout the trial’s duration and the outcome.

For details about fees see the guide to fees in criminal trials in the VLA Handbook for lawyers.

Contact us

For more information, please email tcdp@vla.vic.gov.au or contact:

  • Jessie Taylor, Associate Director, Chambers on (03) 9269 0358
  • Damien Farnfield, Briefing Manager on (03) 9269 0468.

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