South Australia has launched the country’s first-ever online legal aid application portal for clients, responding to a record number of applications last year.
According to Legal Services Commission Director Gabrielle Canny, Legal Aid received more than 19,000 applications in 2016. The demand pushes the legal industry to transform, which should include digitising legal forms to accommodate the needs of everyday Australians, she said.
“While legal aid application forms in some States can be completed online by lawyers, this is the first online form that can be completed and lodged by clients,“ she said. “SA already has the best legal aid processing rate of any mainland Australian state, and this digital initiative builds on that success.”
Canny said that 93% of SA legal aid applications are processed within five days of being received.
The form, which can be accessed through this portal
, responds to the information given by users. It then tailors the available options to suit the user’s particular circumstances.
Canny said that while the form does not eliminate the need for paper in the process, it does reduce its consumption.
“As lawyers, we must move from a paper-based environment to one that embraces digital technologies and initiatives which meet the needs of clients. Technological change can help speed up the wheels of justice, which sometimes move too slowly,” she said. “Our new form has undergone extensive review by client user groups. Given the demands of legal documents, different groups were selected to ensure user testing was as thorough as possible – because we want the form to be as accessible as possible.”
Nonetheless, she said that if South Australians do not wish to apply online, they can still lodge paper applications.
Last year, SA launched the country’s first legal aid web-chat service. The service was even cited by the American Bar Association as a model technology to expand access to justice. Reacting to burgeoning postal cost, the state has also ended snail-mail deliveries to lawyers.
Aussie legal innovation cited by American Bar Association
Stretched SA DPP spent nearly $1m on private counsel last year