Information Note for the Panel on Administration
of Justice and Legal Services
Proposal to Create One Permanent Post of Assistant Principal Legal Aid Counsel and to Regularise the Directorate Structure of the
Application and Procession Division of the Legal Aid Department
This paper informs the Legislative Council's Panel on Administration of Justice and Legal Services of a proposal to create one permanent post of Assistant Principal Legal Aid Counsel (APLAC) (at DL1 on the legal directorate scale) and to regularize the existing directorate structure of the Application and Processing Division (A&PD) of the Legal Aid Department (LAD). Our objective is improve the span of directorate supervision and to ensure the efficient operation of the A&PD.
2. The A&PD is responsible for processing legal aid applications and monitoring of assigned out cases. The directorate structure of the A&PD which was approved in September 1989 comprises one Deputy Director of Legal Aid (DDLA) and one Assistant Director of Legal Aid (ADLA), both at the Headquarters Office, and one APLAC at the Kowloon Branch Office (KBO). Because of increases in workload and the need to strengthen the operation and management of KBO, the ADLA was deployed to KBO in 1990 with the APLAC in KBO deployed to Headquarters.
3. The workload of KBO has continued to increase in recent years. Enclosure 1 illustrates the increases and the distribution of workload at Headquarters and KBO between 1991 and 1998. Enclosure 2 shows the corresponding growth of staff at A&PD in the same period. In addition, the social and political developments in Hong Kong created new demands on the legal aid service. Public aspiration called for a more open and efficient service. Increases in the number of applications in relation to judicial review also put a heavy strain on the three directorate staff of the A&PD, who not only are responsible for the operation of the Division but are also required to assist in the overall management of the department (including dealing with complaints and media enquiries and the formulation of legal aid policies).
4. An exercise to re-engineer the work process conducted in late 1996 pointed to the need for the strengthening of the directorate structure of the A&PD. A performance pledge aimed at reducing the processing time was subsequently formulated and successfully launched in November 1997. This was made possible by -
- the deployment in April 1997 of one APLAC from the Litigation Division (LD) to the A&PD to lead a dedicated section to improve the processing and monitoring of personal injury cases which require specialised skills and experience; and
- the temporary transfer on loan in May 1997 of the APLAC of the Official Solicitor's Office to underpin the ADLA in KBO.
5. Thus, the directorate structure of the A&PD became, as it is now, one DDLA and two APLAC at Headquarters, and one ADLA and one APLAC at KBO. The operational organisation charts of the LAD and the A&PD are at Enclosures 3
CREATION OF ONE PERMANENT POST OF ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL LEGAL AID COUNSEL AND REGULARIZATION OF THE DIRECTORATE STRUCTURE OF THE APPLICATION AND PROCESSING DIVISION
6. The temporary arrangements mentioned above have contributed to the successful implementation of the following initiatives -
- taking over all means-testing of legal aid applications from the Social Welfare Department with effect from 1 September 1997;
- introducing a one-stop-service and improving supervision and operational efficiency;
- reorganizing the structure of the A&PD by strengthening directorate supervision and by setting up teams with more defined responsibilities;
- implementing a performance pledge on processing time in November 1997 as mentioned above; and
- enabling the professional officers to devote more time to consider legal aid applications and monitor assigned out cases.
7. Recent statistics indicate that in the twelve months from December 1997 to November 1998, 89% of the applications for legal aid in civil cases were processed within the standard processing time (i.e. decisions on the grant of legal aid or otherwise within three months from the date of application). This achievement is above our performance target of 80%. In order to sustain the improvements, and with a view to further improving the performance pledge on processing time and tightening the monitoring of assigned-out cases, it is proposed to create one permanent post of APLAC for A&PD and to make its existing directorate structure permanent.
8. With the creation of this post, the APLAC on loan to KBO will be returned to head the Official Solicitor's Office to meet increases in workload as well as to underpin the Director of Legal Aid in the conduct of the Official Solicitor's cases. Following the creation of this post and the deployment of the directorate posts as proposed above, a more balanced directorate structure for the A&PD will be achieved. The duty lists of the three APLAC are at Enclosures 5, 6 and 7.
9. The additional notional annual salary cost of this proposal at MID-POINT is -
||No. of Post
|New permanent post
The additional full annual average staff cost of the proposal, including salaries and staff on-cost is $2,132,880. In addition, the proposal will necessitate the creation of one Personal Secretary II post, at an additional notional annual mid-point salary cost of $181,920 and an additional full annual average staff cost of $303,720. We have included sufficient provision in the 1999-2000 Estimates to meet the cost of this proposal.
10. The above proposals require the approval of the Establishment Subcommittee of the Finance Committee. We intend to seek the approval of the Establishment Subcommittee at its meeting scheduled for 9 June 1999.
Legal Aid Department
13 April 1999
Enclosure 5Duty List of Assistant Principal Legal Aid Counsel/
Kowloon Branch Office
- Supervising the work of 14 Professional Officers(4 Senior Legal Aid Counsel and 10 Legal Aid Counsel, 2 Senior Law Clerks I, 7 Senior Law Clerk II, 39 Law Clerks and 81 general grades staff and attending to their staff matters.
- Approving assignments to professional officers.
- Approving issue of Notice to Show Cause for refusing or discharging legal aid applications/cases.
- Approving dropping of case and recovery of costs.
- Vetting of cases referred to Insolvency, Costing and Enforcement Section for enforcement purpose.
- Handling costing queries apart from assessment of common fund costs and taxation matters.
- Handling complaints in consultation with the Assistant Director of Legal Aid.
- Assisting the Assistant Director of Legal Aid to administer the Kowloon Branch Office in his absence.
- Other duties as the Assistant Director of Legal Aid may direct.
Enclosure 6Duty List of Assistant Principal Legal Aid Counsel/
Application and Processing (Personal Injury)
- Supervising the work of 6 Professional Officers(2 Senior Legal Aid Counsel and 4 Legal Aid Counsel) and the 10 Law Clerks and 16 general grades staff of the Personal Injury Teams including regular reviews of all certificates more than 2 years old.
- Approving Assignments of solicitors and counsel on all legal aid cases.
- Checking all "Refusal on merits" decisions on all personal injury cases, where necessary discussing the same with the processing officer, approving all decisions on applications made under the Supplementary Legal Aid Scheme, and approving all decisions to issue Notice to Show Cause in assigned out cases.
- Processing and monitoring own caseload of over 400 cases.
- Administrative duties as an APLAC relating to staff of the Personal Injury Teams and their work, including preparing replies to outside bodies, investigating complaints, updating Senior Directorate on sensitive cases, attending various meetings of committees, working parties etc.
- Liaising with other Section Heads, including those in Personal Injury Litigation Section, and attending to Notices to Show Cause in relation to cases handled by Litigation Division.
Enclosure 7Duty List of Assistant Principal Legal Aid Counsel/
Application and Processing (General)
- Supervising the work of 9 Professional Officers(3 Senior Legal Aid Counsel and 6 Legal Aid Counsel), 2 Senior Law Clerk I, 5 Senior Law Clerks II, 25 Law Clerks and 42 general grades staff of the General Teams, Information and Appointments Unit, One Stop Service Unit, Office Administration and Typing Pool.
- Approving Assignments of all solicitors and counsel on all non-personal injury cases.
- Rendering advice and guidance to officers of the General Teams in complicated cases.
- Processing and monitoring own caseload of over 1,900 cases which are all sensitive cases.
- Administrative duties as an APLAC relating to staff of the General Teams and their work, including preparing replies to outside bodies, investigating complaints, updating Senior Directorate on sensitive cases, attending various meetings of committees, working parties etc.
- Administrative duties as an APLAC in-charge of Office Administration including formulating the implementation of policies and procedures relating to the Application and Processing Division in Headquarters.