Practitioner panels

Practitioner panels

Practitioner panels are lists of lawyers who are approved to act in grants of legal aid for clients in family law, criminal law or child protection matters. These private practitioners play an essential role in providing legal assistance in the mixed model of service delivery.

We have established private practitioner panels under sections 29 and 30 of the Legal Aid Act 1978, each covering a different category of matters.

To apply for work under a grant of aid, both you and your firm must be members.

We invite and encourage qualified applicants to apply for panel membership. Please see how COVID-19 is impacting our ability to assess your application.  

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How panel membership works

In order to apply for work and do work under a grant of aid:

  • the practitioner’s firm must be registered as a member of our panels. The firm only needs to register once for all panels.
  • a practitioner must be approved as an Individual Certifier on the relevant panels. Practitioners must submit a separate application for each panel they wish to join.

Only an Individual Certifier can apply for a grant of aid. The Individual Certifier:

  • must certify that a matter meets our guidelines and has merits
  • and has overall responsibility for a matter, including for the quality of the legal service provided.

All partners, directors and employees of a registered firm can work on legally aided matters, under the supervision of the Individual Certifier who has carriage of the matter.

Individual Certifier status attaches to the individual. If an Individual Certifier moves firm, they can continue certifying grants of aid as long as the new firm is registered as a member of our panels.

What are the responsibilities of a panel member?

Individual certifiers and firms are required to enter into an agreement with Victoria Legal Aid. This agreement takes the form of a ‘Deed for firms’, and an ‘Acknowledgment for Individual Certifiers’.

The schedules to these agreements set out the terms and conditions of panel membership, and your obligations to provide quality representation to clients and to comply with our policies and guidelines.

You can read the schedules in the Panels conditions.

Am I eligible for panel membership?

You can find the eligibility criteria for the panel you are interested in on the relevant application form. The eligibility criteria for Individual Certifiers are different for each panel.

We will consider requests for exemptions to some of the eligibility criteria, where there are special circumstances. These could include recently taking extended leave, having part-time or flexible work arrangements, or practicing in a rural or regional area. See the relevant application form for more information.

When can I apply for membership?

You can apply at any time. We accept applications for ‘individual certifier’ status and firm registration forms on a rolling basis.

Successful applicants are appointed to a panel until the panel end date - a period of up to five years.

Our six panels and referral panel

Child Protection Panel

The Child Protection Panel covers matters undertaken in the Family Division of the Children’s Court, including:

  • matters involving a parent, guardian or other interested person in the Family Division of the Children’s Court
  • matters involving a child in the Family Division of the Children’s Court
  • early intervention and dispute resolution for parenting orders
  • child protection appeals
  • judicial reviews of Children’s Court decisions.

Family Law Panel

The Family Law Panel covers legally assisted:

  • early intervention and dispute resolution for parenting orders
  • making and responding to applications for parenting orders
  • applications to discharge or vary parenting orders
  • child support and child maintenance
  • arrears of spousal or child maintenance or child support
  • recovery of children or location and information orders
  • parentage
  • nullity of marriage
  • international child abduction matters
  • contravention and enforcement of parenting orders and contempt of court
  • family law final hearings
  • appeals in family law or child support matters
  • special medical procedures involving children.

Family Violence Panel

The Family Violence Panel covers:

  • family violence intervention orders
  • personal safety intervention orders
  • court ordered representation in family violence matters (respondent and applicant)
  • responding to family violence appeals in the County Court.

Individual practitioners on the Independent Children’s Lawyer Panel, Child Protection Panel or Family Law Panel, are automatically eligible for Panel Certifier status on the Family Violence Panel. If you are applying for membership of one of these panels, you do not need to submit a separate application form for the Family Violence Panel.

Independent Children's Lawyer Panel

Members of the Independent Children’s Lawyer Panel may act as an independent children’s lawyer where VLA has granted legal assistance for that purpose.

Indictable Crime Panel

The Indictable Crime Panel covers:

  • committal proceedings
  • trials in the County Court and Supreme Court
  • County Court and Supreme Court pleas
  • criminal matters in the Court of Appeal and the High Court
  • interlocutory appeals to the Court of Appeal
  • County Court breach proceedings
  • bail applications and variations in the Magistrates’, County and Supreme courts
  • change of plea
  • judicial review of a magistrate’s decision
  • hearings under the Crime (Mental Impairment and Unfitness to be Tried) Act 1997.

Firms on the Indictable Crime Panel must have at least one certifier of the Sexual Offences and Major Cases subset who is also an LIV Accredited Specialist in criminal law on its staff.

The Indictable Crime Panel has two subsets:

The Youth Crime subset

Practitioners who wish to undertake indictable youth crime matters must be members of this subset.

The Sexual Offences and Major Crimes subset

Practitioners must be members of this subset in order to undertake:

  • any indictable crime matter involving a sexual offence (as defined in Section 3 of the Criminal Procedure Act 2009)
  • indictable offences under the Sex Offenders Registration Act 2004
  • Serious Sex Offenders (Detention and Supervision) Act 2009 matters
  • major criminal cases (this includes criminal trials that are likely to last more than 15 days, severed trials less than 15 days that collectively equate to more than 15 days and contested committals beyond 4 days)

Both subsets have specific eligibility criteria. These are set out in the Indictable Crime Panel Application Form.

Summary Crime Panel

The Summary Crime Panel covers matters undertaken for adults in the Magistrates’ Court including:

  • summary crime matters including traffic offences and infringements heard in the Magistrates’ Court
  • bail applications and variations in the Magistrates’ Court and County Court
  • indictable crime matters that can be heard summarily
  • criminal appeals to the County Court
  • any summary crime matter involving a sexual offence (as defined in Section 3 of the Criminal Procedure Act 2009)
  • breaches of family violence or personal safety intervention orders.
  • The Youth Crime subset

The Summary Crime Panel includes an optional subset for youth crime matters.

Practitioners who are approved as Individual Certifiers on the Youth Crime Subset of the Summary Crime Panel may also act in:

  • proceedings in the Criminal Division of the Children’s Court
  • any criminal law matter from the list relating to the Summary Crime Panel above involving a child (as defined in the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005)

Specific eligibility criteria apply. These are set out in the Summary Crime Panel application form.

Referral Panel

Our Referral Panel is established under s 30 of the Legal Aid Act 1978, and is used to refer matters which aren’t covered by one of the specialist panels such as civil law matters.

Membership of the Referral Panel is by firm. You do not need an Individual Certifier to accept referrals on this Panel.

To join the Referral Panel, simply submit a Firm Registration Form.

Training

Thinking of joining a panel?

Some panels require prospective Individual Certifiers to complete training before they can be accepted on the panel.

Consult the relevant panel’s Individual Certifier Application Form to check which training you need to complete.

Access eLearning modules free of charge here:

Enquire about and register for the next Youth Crime Foundations training by emailing ple@vic.gov.au.

Already a panel member?

We make a wide range of training opportunities and practice resources available to panel members.

Email ple@vic.gov.au to register for our learning resources, and to receive updates on training opportunities from our Professional Legal Education team.

Applying for grants of legal aid

Individual Certifiers apply for, and manage, grants of aid through our online grants management system ATLAS. All Panel firms and Individual Certifiers must be registered to use ATLAS:

  • your firm must be registered to use ATLAS, and must have a nominated ATLAS System Administrator
  • each Individual Certifier must be registered and have their own ATLAS user ID.

If your firm is already registered to use ATLAS, your firm’s ATLAS System Administrator can set up an ATLAS User ID for you. You will be asked to include this on any application for Individual Certifier status.

If your firm is not yet registered for ATLAS, it will be asked to do so in the Firm Application Form.

Access ATLAS – including instructions and help.

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