Victoria Legal Aid

Identifying trials

Information about the suitability of trials for the Trial Counsel Development Program and how to apply for a grant of legal assistance.

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

We have recruited over 50 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
  • do not exceed a 10-day trial estimate
  • are not necessarily complex trials
  • would not ordinarily attract funding for junior counsel
  • are ready to start on their listing date.

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 program is where practitioners who have briefed one of the juniors at committal may contact the program coordinators to discuss bringing in lead counsel under the program for the subsequent trial.

Solicitors on section 29A panels should follow the following steps 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 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 program. 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 program, 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 trialsExternal Link in the VLA Handbook for Lawyers.

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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.

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Reviewed 05 February 2024

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