The services VALS provides are as follows:
- Information, initial legal advice, minor assistance and referral;
- Duty lawyer assistance;
- Legal casework services including representation and assistance, covering Criminal Law, Civil Law and Family Law matters.
Each of the VALS’ offices can provide basic legal information.
Initial Legal Advice
Initial legal advice is the provision of legal advice or information that is not provided as part of duty lawyer work or casework. It includes referrals, preliminary assistance, the writing of short letters and completion of forms.
Minor assistance is helping with phone calls or letters and advocacy in dealing with other services.
A VALS’ staff member will use his or her professional judgement in making an appropriate referral having reference to the lists of appropriate sources of referral and assistance maintained by VALS.
Duty Lawyer assistance
Duty Lawyers provide advice and/or representation in urgent matters to people who have not been able to arrange legal representation. For instance, all applications (i.e. for bail or adjournments) are performed on a Duty Lawyer basis where the matter is completed in one day. A matter not completed on the same day is called a Casework matter.
Legal Casework is legal representation and assistance, covering criminal, civil and family law matters. It is matters where VALS provides ongoing legal services (i.e. assistance continues after the first day of contact) to a client in relation to a particular legal problem.
VALS gives priority to applicants whose circumstances fall into one or more of the priority categories, which are:
- Where the person may be detained in custody;
- Where there is a real risk to the person’s physical safety;
- Where cultural or personal well-being is at risk;
- Where a family member of a person who died in custody seeks representation at an inquiry into the death (unless other appropriate Assistance is readily available); and
- Where the client would be significantly disadvantaged if assistance is not provided.