Written Answer by Minister for Law, Mr K Shanmugam, to Parliamentary Question on Making Sure Lawyers Appointed by Legal Aid Bureau Act with Due Dispatch
11 May 2021 Posted in Parliamentary speeches and responses
Mr Murali Pillai (Member of Parliament for Bukit Batok SMC)
To ask the Minister for Law (a) what steps does the Legal Aid Bureau (LAB) take to ensure that lawyers appointed by LAB act competently and with due despatch on legal aid matters assigned to them; (b) whether LAB conducts regular satisfaction surveys with legally-aided persons to elicit their views about service levels accorded to them by the lawyers appointed by LAB; and (c) if so, what is the service quality standard of lawyers appointed by LAB over the past three years as elicited from these surveys.
- The Legal Aid Bureau (LAB) has practice groups in the areas of family, civil and Syariah law, which are headed by experienced in-house lawyers from the Legal Service. LAB’s in-house lawyers are governed by the Public Service Code of Conduct and held to high professional standards. They undergo regular training and development, including attachments with senior practitioners in private practice to learn about niche areas of law. The in-house team of lawyers have a mix of public sector and private practice experience.
- These in-house lawyers are supplemented by a pool of volunteer lawyers from private practice who handle about one-third of LAB’s cases. All volunteers are screened and have to demonstrate that they understand LAB’s ethos and their roles and responsibilities before they can take on cases. Some of these lawyers have volunteered for more than 20 years and assisted hundreds of legal aid recipients.
- All LAB cases are reviewed by the Director of Legal Aid on a quarterly basis to ensure quality and timely progress. For cases handled by its in-house lawyers, LAB also tracks the time taken to process an aid application, and time taken to draft, vet and file court documents, to ensure timely progress. The statistics on case progress are shared with supervisors, as well as staff to empower them to monitor their own performance.
- LAB also monitors the cases handled by volunteers. If a volunteer is found to have caused undue delay, LAB may reassign the case. If legal aid applicants raise any issues about the work of the volunteers, LAB will conduct internal investigations and reassign the case if need be. After completion of a case, LAB rates the volunteer on their timeliness and quality of the work done, taking into account applicants’ feedback on the case. Volunteers who are consistently rated below a certain threshold may not be assigned further cases from LAB.
- The Bureau conducts yearly customer satisfaction surveys. The average overall customer satisfaction for the past 3 years (from 2018 to 2020) was 96%, i.e. 96% of applicants indicated overall satisfaction with LAB’s services, including in the last year. In addition, in the 2020 survey, more than 9 in 10 survey respondents indicated satisfaction with what the lawyers had done to progress their cases, and that their lawyers were respectful and understanding and made sufficient efforts to help them understand what was happening with their cases.
Last updated on 11 May 2021