Quality Assurance – helping our clients and panel practitioners

Quality Assurance – helping our clients and panel practitioners

Our Quality Assurance team is made up of:

  1. Quality audits team
  2. Compliance team.

If you have questions about quality audits, or have been chosen for audit email the Quality Audit team at QualityAudits@vla.vic.gov.au or phone direct on (03) 9269 0600.

For any queries about a compliance check, compliance requirements email the Compliance team at Compliance@vla.vic.gov.au or phone on (03) 9269 0600.

Quality audits

Our Quality Audit team ensures our clients receive quality legal representation from of our section 29A Panels.

This is done by applying our Practice Standards against practitioner practice files.

Recognising high-quality work

Quality audits are an opportunity to strengthen our partnership with private practitioners. It is also an opportunity to recognise high-quality work conducted by our practice partners.

Who will be quality audited

All panel practitioners may be subject to a quality audit. We undertake a risk assessment before selecting panel practitioners to audit. This includes considering:

  • practitioner experience
  • practitioner or firm’s volume of work and case costs
  • other factors such as complaints, compliance check data, past performance, and/or the outcome of a previous quality audit.

As we select practitioners to audit based on a risk-based model, practitioners who achieve consistent excellent outcomes in their audits will be audited less frequently.

When do quality audits happen

If you are selected for an audit, you will be contacted by one of our legal quality auditors in advance of the audit. We will provide details on the procedure of the audit, what information you need to provide, and suggestions on how you can achieve a successful audit.

Although audits may be conducted at any time, the Quality Audit team will generally schedule audits in line with a specialist practitioner panel. This means we will focus on an area of law (ie indictable crime) during a single audit cycle.

Outcomes of quality audits

At the end of an audit, the Quality Audit team will assign an audit outcome category (AOC) to the audit based on the individual and collective quality of the files audited.

The AOCs are:

  • Good practice – a practitioner’s files demonstrate a very high standard of service quality with few practice standard issues identified.
  • Good practice and education – a practitioner’s files demonstrate a generally good standard of quality with some practice standard issues identified.
  • Education – a practitioner’s files demonstrate that you meet the minimum standard for legal practice work but with several issues identified.
  • Quality Improvement Plan (QIP) – a practitioner’s files have not met minimum standards with significant issues identified. The Quality Audit team will meet with the practitioner and develop a plan to assist the practitioner improve their service quality.

Recognising our practitioner’s high service quality

We know that most practitioners are already providing exceptional services to the client in ways that clearly exceed the Practice Standards. We are committed to acknowledging examples of high-quality service that we see during audits by communicating this feedback to our practice partners, and, if appropriate, more widely through publications such as Legal Aid Brief.

More information

See Section 29A panels conditions to download the quality audit terms and conditions or other schedules of the panel deed.

Contact us

If you have questions about quality audits, or have been chosen for audit and need assistance, please contact the Quality Audit team, via email QualityAudits@vla.vic.gov.au or phone direct on (03) 9269 0600.

Compliance team

Our organisation has a statutory objective to provide legal aid in the most effective, economic and efficient manner.

We expect the highly skilled practitioners on our specialist panels to provide clients with high quality representation and to manage the costs of matters closely.

Compliance checks

Practitioners on our specialist panels use the simplified grants process (SGP) to apply for legal assistance on behalf of their clients and make recommendations to our organisation against our funding guidelines and merits tests.

To ensure our limited funds are directed to those most in need, we periodically check decisions to provide grants based on practitioner recommendations via the SGP.

By conducting regular checks and working in partnership with firms on compliance issues, we support practitioners to make appropriate recommendations for a grant of legal assistance. This helps firms to maintain or improve their compliance, with the potential added benefit of reduced breach notices and related financial penalties.

Case study – compliance with funding guidelines

We worked with a firm to address an increasing number of breach and restitution notices resulting from recommendations made by a particular practitioner at that firm. Read Case study: compliance with funding guidelines.

Case study – conduct of indictable trials

We exercised discretion under section 31(3) to request information from a practitioner about the conduct of a legally assisted criminal trial. Read Case study: conduct of indictable trials.

New Grants Compliance Framework

In 2015, we responded to practitioner feedback by ceasing to restitute funds for grants which we later assessed as not meeting the funding guidelines. We recognised that in most cases these situations arose from a genuine error, and that restitution created a barrier to practitioners doing legal aid work.

In December 2019 the VLA Board approved a new Grants Compliance Framework.

The framework, to be rolled out during 2020–21, prioritises the use of training and compliance checks to support practitioners to correctly apply funding requirements. The framework makes it clear that where a compliance check identifies over or underpayment of fees, our organisation will discuss adjustment of fees with the practitioner.

As a result of these changes, the Panels Deed and Schedules have been amended, see panels conditions.

Requesting information from practitioners

Under section 31(3) of the Legal Aid Act 1978 (Vic), we may request information about the progress and conduct of a legally assisted matter from the practitioner conducting the matter.

This enables us to monitor the quality of the legal representation we fund, exercise oversight and scrutiny of high-cost or high-risk matters, and ensure general compliance with our statutory objectives.

It also helps us to identify opportunities for supporting practitioners throughout the course of a legally assisted matter and to work with practitioners to recognise and resolve any possible issues before they arise.

More information

See Section 29A panels conditions to download the compliance terms and conditions

For step-by-step guides to help use the most common functions in ATLAS, see ATLAS user guides.

Contact us

If you have questions about quality audits, or have been chosen for audit and need assistance, please contact the Compliance team via email Compliance@vla.vic.gov.au or phone on (03) 9269 0600.

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