Ministry of Justice guidelines for legal aid provider applications

This information has been provided to the New Zealand Law Society by the Ministry of Justice and is intended to assist lawyers who want to apply for approval to provide legal aid services.

All legal aid lawyers who were listed providers and had a practising certificate at 30 June 2011 have transitional approval through to 31 December 2011. Legal aid lawyers who wish to retain their approval, and continue to provide legal aid services without interruption, need to reapply by 31 December 2011. After 31 December 2011, lawyers who want to provide legal aid services – whether previously approved or new providers – will need to apply for approval, and will not be able to provide legal aid services until they have been approved.

Certificate of Standing

Do make sure you have a valid Certificate of Standing (CoS). A CoS must be included with a legal aid provider application. The Certificates are issued by the New Zealand Law Society (NZLS) and are valid for three months. These can take up to eight weeks to obtain so, if you haven’t done so already, do get your application in to the NZLS as soon as possible.

Canterbury legal aid providers – extension of time for work samples

Don’t panic if you can’t access files and records because of the Canterbury earthquakes. The Ministry of Justice is aware of difficulties that some Canterbury lawyers may have in providing the required work samples with applications.

Legal aid lawyers who are unable to access files and records due to the earthquakes and who have not had sufficient cases since the earthquakes to build the required work samples can provide an affidavit to this effect.

Do submit your application without work samples, along with the affidavit, and your application will be accepted, but not processed.

Your application will be held until there has been a reasonable opportunity to provide work samples, either by being able to access your files and records or because you have had sufficient opportunity to develop new work samples.

Affected providers will have at least three months to provide the required samples and will retain approved provider status during this time. The situation for Canterbury lawyers will be reviewed in December 2011.

Approval tips and reminders

Do fill in Part 1 Application for approval to provide legal aid services – this is required from all applicants.

Do include your client care letter and/or letter of engagement, and make sure the client care letter refers to the Ministry of Justice not the LSA and covers legal aid obligations.

Do make sure the name or stamp, and authority to witness (eg, JP or lawyer), of the person who witnessed the statutory declaration has been included.

For supervised providers:

Do have two referees complete this form, 3B. If you’re only applying for one area of law one of your referees must be the lead provider who will supervise you. The other referee must be from outside your firm or chambers. You can use a law lecturer, tutor or professional instructor as a second referee.

Do, if you are applying for more than one area of law, have a referee for each area who must be the lead provider who will supervise you in each area.

For lead providers:

Do complete the Part (form) for each area of law you are applying in.

Do state 10+ if your number of cases in a year is more than 10. We expect the case numbers to be reasonably accurate but accept it may not be exact.

Do provide recent case examples – ones from within the last five years are preferable but case examples can be outside this period. The number of case examples required depends on the area of law you’re applying for and is in the relevant application form. For Criminal Proceedings Category 3 and 4 not all your case examples need to have gone to trial, but some should have. You need to provide enough information to demonstrate substantial and active involvement.

Do provide only two work samples if you’re only applying for one area of law.

Do provide one work sample for each area of law when you’re applying for more than one.

Don’t provide a work sample for each case example you submit - but work samples should relate to a case example also provided.

If you are applying for approval for:

  • Criminal Proceedings Category 1 and Duty Solicitor – use the same case examples and work samples.
  • Criminal Proceedings Category 2 and Police Detention Legal Assistance – use the same case examples and work samples.
  • More than one Criminal Proceedings Category – you only need to provide information to satisfy the criteria for the highest category. For example, if you are applying for Criminal PC3 approval, you only need to provide information to satisfy Criminal PC3. If you are approved, you will be able to provide legal aid services at Criminal PC1, 2 and 3.
  • Criminal Proceedings Category 4 – your prosecutions experience can now be taken into account.

Do supply two references if you’re only applying for one area of law. One of your referees must be from outside your firm or chambers.

Do supply one reference for each area of law when you’re applying for more than one. Your referee may comment on your competence and experience, if in a position to do so, in more than one area of law but you will still need two referees.

Do refer to the application guidelines on the Ministry of Justice website – these have been updated for recent changes to the Regulations and to make requirements clearer. They’re in the Information for Legal Aid Providers section.

If you need further information please contact Provider Services at the Ministry of Justice – email legalaidprovider@justice.govt.nz or phone 04 918 8800.