2014 Legal Aid Department Annual Report
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Vision, Mission & Values
Foreward
Departmantal Strategic Plan
Legal Aid Service
Case of Public Interest or Concern
Customer Service
Publicity Programmes
Organistion, Administration and Staffing
Appendicies
     
  Chapter 6  
Organisation, Administration and Staffing
 

The Department has three Divisions, namely the Application and Processing Division, the Litigation Division and the Policy and Administration Division, each headed by a Deputy Director. The organisation chart can be found at the departmental website at http://www.lad.gov.hk/eng/ginfo/oo.html.

 
  Ms Alice Chung Yee-ling
Deputy Director of Legal Aid
(Policy and Administration)
 

Staffing

At the end of 2014, the Department had 527 staff members comprising 76 professional officers, 165 law clerks and 286 supporting staff which included three newly recruited Legal Aid Counsel and 11 Law Clerks.

 

Training and Development

The Department is committed to developing and maintaining a highly-motivated and professional work team to provide quality services to our customers. Every year the Department arranges various general and professional training courses for our staff of all levels to equip them with the latest knowledge and skills needed to face the challenges ahead. The Training Unit, which is headed by a Senior Training Officer, is responsible for formulating, implementing and reviewing the Department's training and development policies and plans to meet the operational and development needs of staff.
 

Professional Training

The Department organises in-house job-related training to keep our professional officers abreast of the changes and development in the relevant legislation and law. In 2014, two courses, namely, How to Conduct Means Tests and Briefing on New Companies Ordinance were organised with an attendance of 66 officers.

In addition, the Department also sponsored 38 professional officers to attend external seminars such as Family Practice, Past, Present and Future – a Veteran Point of View, Recent Statutory Changes to Hong Kong’s Law of Trust, Law Reform Law Reform – Isn’t the Law Bad Enough as it is, General Session on Civil Justice Reform, Civil Justice Reform, Co-parenting Intervention in High Conflict Child Custody Cases, Updates on the Law Relating to Contentious Probate and Administration of Estates, Mediation Forum: What are the Success Factors, Mediate First for a Win-win Solution, Overview of the Trade Descriptions (Unfair Trade Practices (Amendment) Ordinance), Exercise of Discretion and Nature and Limits of Judicial Review, Grounds for Judicial Review – Illegality and Constitutional Challenge, Process of Judicial Review and Remedies, Recent Development in Judicial Review, and Recent Development of Judicial Review and the Proposed Reform in the UK.

 

Management Training Courses

To strengthen staff's management capability, 25 professional officers were arranged to attend management courses organised by the Civil Service Training and Development Institute, Civil Service Bureau (CSTDI, CSB) and external institutes. Courses included People Management in the Public Sector, Persuasion and Influencing, The Art and Science of Negotiation, Conducting Selection Interview, Getting the Most from the Social Media, Building Public Trust through Social Media, Effective Communication with Mainland Officials, Programme on Envisioning the Future City, Performance Appraisal Writing, Performance Management System in the Civil Service, Strategies of Negotiation in Guiguzi, Workshop on Impromptu Talk, Improving Managerial Effectiveness and Leadership Excellence.

Three professional officers were nominated to attend executive development programmes organised by CSTDI, CSB, namely Advanced Leadership Enhancement Programme, Leadership in Action and Innovative Leaders Programme.

 

Customer Service Training

The Department places great importance in nurturing a custom-focused culture. To enhance staff's skills in delivering quality service to the public, the Department organised an in-house training course on Answering Enquiries with Heart and Tact. Three classes were conduced, with an attendance of 72 staff members. Furthermore, the Department sponsored staff of different ranks to attend relevant courses held by CSTDI, CSB and external institutes. In 2014, training courses covering a wide variety of topics connected with customer service were arranged for staff. 58 staff members, including general grade staff, attended the following courses, namely, Complaint Management, Handling Customer Complaints, Driving Service Excellence through Effective Complaint Management, Service with heart Seminar on Engaging Staff for Success, Customer Service Skills on the Telephone, Quality Customer Service, Sign Language for Frontline Staff, and Skills to Engage Customers with Psychotic Disorder in the Workplace.

 

Staff Well-being and General Training

The Department is committed to promoting staff well-being. In 2014, four workshops on Chinese Dietary Therapy for Managing Stress were organised and attended by 157 staff members.

Besides, two courses on Safe Use of Display Screen Equipment and Manual Lifting and Handling were organised to raise staff’s awareness of occupational safety and health.

In July 2014, an induction class was conducted for newly joined staff of all grades to familiarise themselves with the Department’s goals, core values and policies.

In addition, the Department nominated 196 staff members to attend courses and seminars on a wide range of topics such as civil service values, official writing, first aid, stress management, Basic Law, Putonghua, occupational safety, equal opportunities, information technology, knowledge management, Store and Procurement Regulations, and records management organised by the CSTDI, CSB, other departments and external institutes.

Regarding National Studies training, seven professional officers attended programmes held at Chinese Academy of Governance, Jinan University, Nanking University and Zhejiang University respectively.


Promoting Self-Learning and Development: In-house Learning Resource Centre

To cultivate the culture of continuous self-learning, the Department continues to purchase books for loan by staff. In 2014, a total of 35 books were added to the Learning Resource Centre. The collection has been expanded to include a wide range of categories such as management, communication, language, national studies, personal development, positive thinking, stress management and healthy lifestyle.

To facilitate easy access to self-learning materials by staff, resources on IT tips, use of Chinese as well as reference materials of in-house training courses were uploaded onto the departmental portal. Staff can also have direct access to CLC Plus, the e-learning portal for all civil servants, which contains a great variety of self-learning resources, toolkits and job aids on management, language, communication and information technology. As at end of 2014, 287 staff members have registered as CLC Plus members.

 

Information Systems

The Department places great importance to update its IT infrastructure and office automation facilities to facilitate prompt and efficient delivery of legal aid services to the public.

The Department's Case Management and Case Accounting System (CM&CAS) supports over 500 staff users in handling day-to-day legal aid business processes such as processing applications, monitoring assigned out cases, and handling legal aid payments. In 2014, the CM&CAS was further enhanced to facilitate staff members of civil litigation units to submit declaration of conflict of interest electronically.

To facilitate effective case assignment to panel lawyers, the CM&CAS will be modified to send regular reminder letters to panel lawyers who have not updated their profile in the last 3 years. The enhancement is targeted to be implemented in 2015.

The Legal Aid Electronic Services Portal (LAESP), which was launched in 2008, provides an online gateway through which members of the public and panel lawyers can gain access to information and transact certain legal aid business with the Department online.

Members of the public can access the LAESP to download and submit legal aid pre-application information forms to the Department as a first step towards making an application for legal aid. The means test calculator and its mobile version, which provide potential applicants a preliminary assessment of their financial eligibility for legal aid, had 5.391 and 4.346 hits in 2014 respectively.

To enhance user friendliness of the LAESP system, we have revamped the layout of the web pages, provided text-size control tool to allow the use of different font size for text display, added demonstration screens in related information sections to show how to download and submit e-reports by panel lawyers and display messages, where appropriate, to guide the users in e-report submission and data input.

Taking into account technological development, the Department has upgraded the operating system, hardware and software of all office desktop and notebook computers, the Virtual Private Network with advanced cryptographic technologies and the corresponding LAESP system in alignment with its central hosting platform provided by the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer. To tackle the ending of support for Windows Server 2003, the Department has commenced migration work and public-facing systems are expected to complete in 2015.

 
  Ms Doris Lui Wai-lan
Assistant Director of Legal Aid
(Policy and Development)
 

Staff Relations and Communication

The Department maintains effective communication with staff through regular meetings with various staff representative bodies such as the Departmental Consultative Committees, the Law Clerks Association and the Legal Aid Counsel Association. As a result of discussions at these meetings, improvements were made in areas such as office accommodation, streamlining of working procedures, indoor air quality and human resources planning.

The Director of Legal Aid visited each section regularly throughout the year with a view to exchanging ideas with staff of all levels including professionals and receiving their views on work arrangements and procedures for further review and improvement. Divisions/Sections continued to implement their respective internal communication strategies in consultation with staff. Informal meetings were also held between the Deputy Director of Legal Aid (Policy and Administration) and Senior Law Clerks I and II and general grades staff regularly to collect their views on work and to explore areas for improvement. The Department continued to publish staff newsletter three times a year to keep staff abreast of development in the Department, to promote their sense of belonging and to enhance communication.

 

Staff Welfare

The Department values the general well-being of its staff. The objective of the Staff Club, which was formed in 1988, is to promote staff welfare by organising a wide range of activities and to bring about opportunities where staff can meet and interact whilst engaging in relaxing and enriching activities.

To provide staff with opportunities to keep a healthy balance between work and relaxation, Yoga classes were organised. Recreational activities including the Annual Dinner and mini bazaars to celebrate Chinese New Year, Dragon Boat Festival and Mid-Autumn Festival were also held. Interest classes held such as dessert making and bakery classes were very popular among staff.

 
 
During the year, the Volunteer Service Group, which was formed in 2002 to encourage staff participation in volunteer services, participated in various fund raising activities such as the Rice Selling Campaign organised by Oxfam Hong Kong, MSF Day Fund Raising Campaign organised by Medecins Sans Frontieres, World Sight Day organised by ORBIS Hong Kong and the Chinese New Year Gift Transfer Program organised by St James' Settlement (People's Food Bank). 31 pieces of winter clothing knitted or bought by colleagues were also donated to St James' Settlement. It was worth mentioning that the Department attained the Top Fund-raiser Award and the 3rd Highest Per Capita Contribution Award in the Civil Service Category of Dress Casual Day organized by The Community Chest.
 
 

Environmental Initiatives

The Department is committed to ensuring its operations and activities are conducted in an environmentally responsible manner. The Department makes efforts to minimise waste, conserve energy, promote "reuse" and "recycle" of resources and enhance staff awareness and participation in protecting the environment.

The Department undertakes regular reviews to ensure that the use of its resources is in an efficient and green manner. In 2014, air-conditioning units in headquarters were gradually replaced by new models with temperature adjusting panel installed at working area to maintain room temperature at a comfortable and energy-efficient level and to improve indoor air quality. To facilitate internal circulation as well as to avoid printing advertising messages, some sections started the practice of receiving faxes by email. Details of the Department's environmental initiatives in 2014 can be found in the Department's Environmental Report at the departmental website http://www.lad.gov.hk/eng/ppr/publication/enr.html.

 

Internal Audit

The Internal Audit Section (IAS) is an independent team established to assist management to ensure that adequate control procedures and systems are in place to safeguard the Department's assets. It also carries out reviews of the various activities of the Department in order to ensure an economical, efficient and effective use of the Department's financial, human and other resources.

During the year, IAS reviewed payments to lawyers, experts and other non-aided parties and conducted walk-through tests of the completed internal control questionnaire on payment and expenditure control. It also carried out audits on the use of the Integrated Registration Information System provided by the Land Registry for conducting land searches in legal aid cases and performed periodical checks on means investigation reports, petty cash, imprest, etc.

 

Support Service to the Legal Aid Services Council

Legal Aid Services Council (LASC) is a statutory body set up under the Legal Aid Services Council Ordinance, Cap. 489 to oversee the provision of legal aid services. The LASC is responsible for advising the Chief Executive on matters of policy relating to legal aid. The LASC is chaired by a non-official who is not a professional lawyer. There are a total of 10 members comprising the Director of Legal Aid, representatives of the two legal professional bodies and lay members chosen from other fields. Representatives of the Department attend meetings of the Council and its Interest Groups and participate in its activities in promoting public awareness and understanding of the role of the Council and its relationship with the Department.

During the year, the Department provided the Council with regular progress reports and information on different aspects of legal aid services, such as the Review of Financial Eligibility Limits of Legal Aid Applicants, information relating to Legal Aid Schemes and assignment of lawyers and proposed guidelines for lawyers removed from the Legal Aid Panel applying to re-join the Panel.
 
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