Legal Aid department
Legal Aid department annual report 2008
Departmental Strategic Plan
Legal Aid Services
Cases of Public Interest or Concern
Improving the Way We Work
Publicity Programmes
Organisation, Administration and Staffing
Revenue and Expenditure
Findings of the Survey on Customer Feedback
Legal Aid Department Organisation Chart
Director of Legal Aid and Section Heads
Address and Communication
List of Publications

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 as shown in the organisation chart in Appendix 3.


At the end of 2008, the Department had 534 staff comprising of 73 professional officers, 159 law clerks and 302 supporting staff.

In 2008, one Clerical Assistant post was created in the Litigation Division to meet operational needs.

The Department conducts regular reviews to ensure that the Department's resources are deployed to priority service areas to optimise operational efficiency and effectiveness.  In 2008, the Department reviewed the managerial role of the Senior Legal Aid Counsel with the aim to developing their potential and enhancing operational effectiveness.

Work of the Three Divisions

The work and achievements of the Application and Processing Division and the Litigation Division are set out in Chapter 2.  The Policy and Administration Division provides support to the entire operation of the Department.  Its work and achievements during the year are described as follows.

Training and Development

The Department places great importance on training and development.  They are instrumental in enhancing staff performance that leads to the provision of quality services to the public.  The Training Unit formulates and reviews the Department's training policies and plans.  The Unit is headed by a Senior Training Officer who plans, organises, implements and monitors various types of training programmes to meet the operational and development needs of staff.

In 2008, a number of generic and vocational training courses were arranged for staff at all levels. Some of the major training initiatives are described below:

Job-Related Professional Training

48 Legal Aid Counsel Grade officers attended law seminars organised by external training bodies on Basic Principles of Judicial Review, Family Law, Race Discrimination Ordinance, mediation and Civil Justice Reform etc. to keep abreast of development in the areas of law that were relevant to their work.  Two Law Clerk Grade officers were sponsored to attend legal studies run by a local tertiary institution.  In addition, in-house job related courses were arranged for staff to improve their work knowledge.  In-house talks on the work of the role/responsibilities of Professional Officers and Law Clerk grade staff in the Crime Section and the work of Official Solicitor's Office were organised. In all, 120 Counsel Grade and Law Clerk Grade officers attended the talks.

Training on General Subjects

A wide range of internal and external courses on general subjects such as Management, Communication, Language, National Studies and Information Technology were made available to staff to meet the developmental needs of individual officers.  Some major in-house programmes included an experience sharing session with EMSD on cultural change was organised for directorate officers, a management workshop delivered by external consultant for Senior Legal Aid Counsel and Legal Aid Counsel, and a series of video seminars on teamwork for all staff.  In-house Putonghua courses were also organised for staff of different levels.

Mr William Chan Heung-ping
Deputy Director of Legal Aid/Policy and Administration

Promoting a Culture of Learning and Self-development

The Department is committed to cultivating a continuous learning and self-development culture amongst staff.  The Learning Resource Centre, which was set up in 2005, provides learning resources on a variety of subjects covering management, communication, language, national studies, public administration, science and personal development.  Currently there are over 250 items including books, self-learning packages, videos and compact discs which are available for loan by staff, and more will be acquired continuously.  Subscription to an online digital business library was arranged for directorate officers for access to over 480 video-taped narratives by successful business leaders worldwide on a broad spectrum of management topics such as leadership, strategy, communication, human resources and managing people.

The Department also advocates E-learning to facilitate self-development.  Staff of the Department have access to the Department's intranet from where they can find useful learning resources and work-related guidelines. 

Besides the Departmental Portal, staff can also access the government's Cyber Learning Centre (CLC), which enables them to receive tuition at any time, anywhere and at their own pace.  Around 76% of LAD staff have registered with the CLC compared with the civil service average of 53%.

Mrs Annie Williams Ka-ding
Assistant Director of Legal Aid/Policy and Development

Information Systems Strategy

Following the implementation of the Information Systems Strategy Programme in 2001-2002, the Department has in place an IT infrastructure and office automation facilities to assist all staff in their daily work.

The Case Management and Case Accounting System supports over 500 users in handling business processes including processing of applications, assignment of cases to LAD officers and external service providers, monitoring progress of in-house and assigned-out cases, monitoring the accounts of legal aid cases and payments to the legally aided persons and assigned lawyers.

In 2008, the Case Management and Case Accounting System were further enhanced to cope with the latest changes in business workflow and procedures.  To maintain up-to-date information security policies and control measures, the Department engaged independent auditor to perform security risk assessment and audit on all information systems.  Following completion of the security risk assessment and auditing, the Departmental IT Security Policy was revised to tie in with the advancement of technology as well as changes in the Government's information security requirements.  The revised IT Security Policy has been promulgated to all staff of the Department. 

The departmental electronic services portal, known as "Legal Aid Electronic Services Portal (LAESP)", was also launched in 2008.  The LAESP enables private legal practitioners to apply to join the Legal Aid Panel and panel lawyers to update their personal particulars and information about their work experience and expertise electronically.  Assigned solicitors can submit case progress reports to the Department and assigned counsel in criminal legal aid cases can submit case report and fees report forms via the LAESP.  It also provides an e-option for members of the public to take preparatory steps towards making an application for legal aid.  Besides, they can find out if they are likely to be qualified for legal aid on means through the use of a means calculator on LAESP.

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 (DCC), the Law Clerks Association and the Legal Aid Counsel Association.  As a result of discussion in DCC, improvements have been made in areas such as office hygiene and maintenance of IT equipment.  In 2008, the staff side representatives were successfully elected for the new session of DCC.

To keep staff abreast of development in the Department and to promote their sense of belonging, the Department published a staff newsletter three times a year.  In order to exchange ideas with professional officers, Director of Legal Aid visited each section and received valuable opinions on work arrangements.  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 general grades staff to canvas 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 to bring about opportunities where staff can meet and interact whilst engaging in relaxing and enriching activities.

To provide staff with opportunities to maintain their physical fitness, classes in Qigong, Tai-Chi and Yoga were arranged, together with a badminton match and an excursion to the New Territories.  Various classes on interests such as knitting, baking and Chinese calligraphy were also organised.

Staff welfare and recreational activities including the Christmas Party and mini bazaars to celebrate festivals like Chinese New Year and Mid-Autumn were held.

The Volunteer Service Group (VSG) was formed in 2002 to encourage staff participation in volunteer services and to contribute to the welfare of the public at large.  In 2008, VSG supported the "Volunteer Movement" organised by the Social Welfare Department, participated in the "making of knots" activity, "Great Wall of Ears" photo collection activity organised by the Hong Kong Society for the Deaf and the "We Share to Care Volunteering Campaign" International Volunteer Day 2008.  VSG also participated in various activities such as fund raising activities and visits to the elderly organised by the Agency for Volunteer Service and other non-profit making organisations.

Staff Motivation Activities

Prizes were given to members of staff who participated in the "Game Corner" and "Staff Corner" of the Staff Newsletter in recognition of their involvement and enthusiasm.  To develop a caring culture in the Department, a prize was presented to the donor who contributed most for the event "Dress Special Day 2008".

Staff Suggestions Schemes

A Staff Suggestions Scheme was set up to give staff an incentive to think of ideas and suggestions that improve efficiency at work and promote the public image of the Department.  Suggestions received were referred to the Staff Suggestions Scheme Committee for consideration.  The Department continued to foster the Scheme as a means to solicit staff suggestions.

Environmental Initiatives

The Department is committed to ensuring its operations and activities are conducted in an environmentally responsible manner. The Department supports efforts to minimise waste, conserve energy, promote "reuse" and "recycle" of resources and to 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.  For details of the Department's environmental initiatives in 2008, please refer to the Department's Environmental Report which can be viewed on the Department's website

Apart from the regular reviews undertaken by the Environmental Officers, the Department encouraged staff to re-use paper and transmit documents by emails whenever possible.  Colleagues were assigned to turn off lights during lunch hours and after work to save energy.  The Department continued to keep a close watch on the consumption of paper and number of photocopies.  In the new Hong Kong Sub-office at the Revenue Tower, energy saving equipments such as auto-sensitised lightings and computer-controlled air-conditioning were installed and old furniture was reused as far as possible.  Obsolete lighting systems in the Headquarters at Queensway Government Offices were replaced by energy efficient ones.  With the assistance of the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department, indoor air quality tests were conducted and all offices attained the "Good Class" standard.  The Department also supported the Friends of Earth's "One-hour-long Lights Out on the Summer Solstice" on 21 June.

Office Accommodation

On 25 February, the Hong Kong Sub-office was relocated from Hopewell Centre to Revenue Tower, Wan Chai.  In the Kowloon Branch Office, sound-proofing works to the interview rooms were carried out to safeguard privacy of applicants and aided persons at interviews.  To ease the congested working environment of the Application and Processing Division and to enhance office security, the shroff office at Headquarters was relocated from 24/F to 27/F in late 2008.

Wider Use of Chinese

The glossary of Chinese terms frequently used by staff for their day-to-day work and compiled by the Translation Office was updated during the year.

The updated glossary was placed on the Departmental intranet to facilitate ease of access by staff preparing Chinese documents.  Apart from updating the glossary, the Translation Office also provided telephone enquiry service to staff who needed assistance when drafting Chinese documents.  

The Language Platform, which was launched by the Translation Office in 2002, ran smoothly during the year.  The Translation Office promoted the use of Chinese through the Language Platform by posting articles regularly on the intranet on matters of interest relating to Chinese culture and traditions and giving useful tips that helped staff to improve their Chinese writing skills.

The Department's in-house Litigation Division continued to conduct civil and criminal cases in Chinese where appropriate, and increased the use of Chinese in both internal and external communication.

Ms Doris Lui Wai-lan
Assistant Principal Legal Aid Counsel/Legal and Management Support (Acting)

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, the IAS reviewed the systems on long-outstanding cases, and a further review as to the circumstances under which legal aid cases could be finalised to ensure that measures already taken to improve the closure of long standing cases were adequate.  IAS also reviewed the Integrated Registration Information System provided by the Land Registry for conducting land searches in legal aid cases, the accuracy of computer data input by staff and periodical checks on compiling means investigation reports 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 barrister or solicitor and there is a total of 10 members comprising the Director of Legal Aid, legal 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. 

In 2008, the LASC organised a seminar on "Legal Aid and Livelihood".  Staff from the Department was invited to attend to assist in answering questions from the floor on matters relating to legal aid.  Regular progress reports and information papers on different aspects of legal aid services, such as the on-going review of the criminal legal aid fees system, the progress of implementation of the 2008 Work Plan and the implementation of the recommendations made by The Ombudsman on the monitoring of assigned out cases, were provided by the Department to the Council.

December 17
Acting Assistant Principal Legal Aid Counsel/Legal and Management Support, Ms Doris Lui (second from left), delivered a talk on Impact of maintenance cases on the legal aid system in a Community Involvement Project – Forum: Trans-Disciplinary Perspective on Maintenance, co-organized by Hong Kong University Family Institute (HKUFI) and Conflict Resolution Centre (CRC).

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