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 2015, the Department had 534 staff members comprising 79 professional officers, 164 law clerks and 291 supporting staff which included six newly recruited Legal Aid Counsel and 15 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 the 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 2015, two courses, namely, Interim Payments to Aided Persons and How to Assess Bills of Costs were organised with an attendance of 53 professional officers and other staff.

To promote collaboration with academic institutions, the Department invited Mr Eric Cheung Tat-ming, Assistant Professor and Director of Clinical Legal Education of the University of Hong Kong to conduct a talk on HKU’s Clinical Legal Education Programme. A total of 49 professional officers attended the session.

In addition, the Department also sponsored six professional officers to attend the General Mediation Training Course and 38 professional officers to attend external seminars including Judicial Review, The Use of Contracts and Trusts - Protection of Confidentiality and Privacy, Guardianship - Part I Orders and Enduring Powers of Attorney, Is the Concept of Special Contributions Defensible or Discriminatory, Legal Workshop on Data Protection, New Reproductive Technologies, Surrogacy and The Three-Parent Baby Conundrum - The Family Law Perspective, Private Adjudication of Financial Disputes in Family Cases, Recovery of Child Support and Family Maintenance in Asia Pacific and Worldwide: National and Regional Systems and the Hague 2007 Convention and Protocol, The Horns of a Dilemma: the Court’s Choice Between the Spouse and Creditors When Considering Resulting Trusts, The Law and Practice in Financial Provision: Time for Change, Third Children’s Issues Forum, Worldwide Web of Art – Legal Update: England and Wales and Europe.

 

Management Training Courses

To strengthen staff's management capability, the Department organized a workshop on Appraisal Report Writing for newly promoted officers. Besides, 32 professional officers attended management courses organised by the Civil Service Training and Development Institute, Civil Service Bureau (CSTDI, CSB) and external institutes. Courses included The Art and Science of Negotiation, Communication and Interpersonal Skills for Action Managers, Building Public Trust Through Social Media, A New Era of Crisis Communication, Dialogue in the Dark, Prudent Financial Management and Managing Staff Integrity, Selling Ideas Creatively for Results, Chinese Wisdom and Team Management Skills, Thirty-six Strategies and Decision Making Skills, Stakeholders Engagement in a Volatile Environment, Strategic Business Leadership Programme, and New Contexts of Public Policy.

Three professional officers were nominated to attend executive development programmes organised by CSTDI, CSB, namely Leadership in Action and Innovative Leadership 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 workshop on How to Communicate with Customers of Mental Disorders with an attendance of 55 staff members. A refresher Putonghua course was organized to further enhance the Putonghua proficiency of professional officers. Furthermore, the Department sponsored staff of different ranks to attend relevant courses held by CSTDI, CSB and external institutes. In 2015, 92 staff members, including general grade staff, attended the following courses, namely, Better Spoken English for Frontline Staff, Practical Putonghua for Frontline Staff, Effective Putonghua Telephone Skills, Enhanced Communication in English for Customer Service, Customer Service Skills on the Telephone, Turning Challenges to Opportunities – Resolving Customer Complaints, Understanding and Responding to Verbal Violence, and Quality Customer Service.

 

Staff Well-being and General Training

The Department is committed to promoting staff well-being. In 2015, two classes on Chinese Dietary Therapy in Managing Stress and a class on Hypnotherapy in Managing Stress were organized. A total of 90 staff members attended the workshops.

Regarding general trainings, 211 staff members were nominated to attend courses and seminars organised by the CSTDI, CSB, other government departments and external institutes on a wide range of topics such as Records Management, Stores Regulations, Occupational Safety, First Aid, Civil Service Values and Integrity, Official Writing, Performance Management System, Equal Opportunities, Information Technology, National Studies, Putonghua, and Data Privacy.

Regarding National Studies training, two professional officers attended programmes held at the Chinese Academy of Governance and Tsinghua University respectively.


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

To cultivate the culture of continuous self-learning, the Department maintains a comprehensive collection of books available to our staff. The collection covers a wide range of topics including general management, communication, use of 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 training courses were uploaded onto the departmental portal. Staff also have direct access to CLC Plus, the e-learning portal for all civil servants, which contains a variety of self-learning resources, toolkits and job aids on management, language, communication, information technology, etc. As at the end of 2015, 229 staff members have registered as CLC Plus users.

 

Information Systems

The Department places great importance on its IT infrastructure and office automation facilities to prompt and efficient 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. To ensure the work experience record of Panel lawyers kept by the Department is up to date, the CM&CAS was enhanced in 2015 to facilitate our staff to send out reminder letters periodically to Panel lawyers who have not updated their profile in the last 3 years.

To improve data accuracy and consistency in means assessment of legal aid applicants, the CM&CAS was automated to capture foreign currency exchange rates directly from the Hong Kong Association of Banks. Also, a list of the most popular banks in Mainland China was extracted from the China Banking Regulatory Commission for quicker banks selection / input during means assessment.

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 5i740 and 5i334 hits in 2015 respectively.

To facilitate submission of the Pre-application Information forms by legal aid applicants and entry forms by Panel lawyer, the LAESP was extended to support the use of e-cert on smart Hong Kong ID card.

Taking into account technological development, the Department is upgrading the operating system, hardware and software of the LAESP which is planned to be on production in early 2016.

To provide an alternative and more convenient means for government officers and legal practitioners including the Department’s staff to pay officials visits to Persons in Custody detained in Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre (LCKRC), a Remote Official Visit System (ROVS) was introduced in LCKRC. To utilize the benefits offered by the new system, installation work was underway in 2015. With the ROVS, official visits of legal aid applicants detained in LCKRC by the Department’s staff can be conducted timely and conveniently within the Department’s designated location starting in early 2016.

 
  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. Resulting from the discussions at these meetings, improvements have been made concerning office accommodation, streamlining of working procedures, indoor air quality and human resources planning, etc.

The Director of Legal Aid visited each section throughout the year with a view to exchanging ideas with staff of all levels including professional officers 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.

 

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 held regularly. Recreational activities including the Annual Dinner, bowling competition and mini bazaars to celebrate Chinese New Year, Dragon Boat Festival and Mid-Autumn Festival were also held. Interest classes such as dessert making and bakery classes proved to be very popular among staff.

 
 
During the year, the Volunteer Service Group, which was formed in 2002, to encourage staff to get involved in volunteer services, participated in various fund raising activities such as the Rice Selling Campaign organised by Oxfam Hong Kong, 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). 18 pieces of winter clothing were also donated to St James' Settlement. It was worth mentioning that the Department attained the Top Fund-raiser and the 2nd 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. Details of the Department's environmental initiatives in 2015 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 non-civil service contract staff payments and data input of disciplinary cases of Panel lawyers in the Case Management and Case Accounting System. 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 (the Council) is a statutory body set up under the Legal Aid Services Council Ordinance, Cap. 489 to oversee the provision of legal aid services. The Council is responsible for advising the Chief Executive on matters of policy relating to legal aid. The Council 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 the implementation of the guidelines for lawyers removed from the Legal Aid Panel applying to re-join the Panel.

 

The Ombudsman Award 2015

The Ombudsman's Awards 2015 for Public Organisations

The Department was awarded The Ombudsman's Award 2015 for Public Organisations in recognition of its efforts in providing quality services as well as promoting a positive and impartial culture in handling complaints. The award was a great encouragement to the Department and we would spare no efforts in enhancing our services for the public.

 
 

The Ombudsman's Awards 2015 for Officers of Public Organisations

Miss Patricia Leung joined the Department in May 2011 as Deputy Departmental Secretary. As part of her duties, she took on the role of Departmental Complaints Officer. With her good interpersonal skills and work knowledge, she dealt with complainants competently. In recognition and appreciation of Miss Leung's performance in handling complaints, she was awarded The Ombudsman's Award 2015.

 
 
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