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 2009, the Department had 534 staff comprising 73 professional officers, 159 law clerks and 302 supporting staff.

The Department continues to conduct regular reviews to ensure that the Department's resources are deployed to priority service areas to optimise operational efficiency and 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 below.

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 2009, 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

45 Legal Aid Counsel Grade officers attended law seminars organised by external training bodies on topics ranging from Civil Justice Reform, Mediation, Personal Injury Litigation, Employees' Compensation to Ancillary Relief/Financial Dispute Resolution, etc. to keep abreast of development in the areas of law that were relevant to their work.  In-house talks on the work of the role/responsibilities of Professional Officers and Law Clerk grade staff in the Civil Litigation 1 and Legal & Management Support Sections were organised.  In addition, in-house job related talks on Legal Aid Ordinance, How to Conduct Means Test, Mediation, and Code on Access to Information were arranged for staff to improve their work knowledge.  In all, 200 Counsel Grade and Law Clerk Grade officers attended these talks.

Training on General Subjects

A wide range of internal and external courses on general subjects such as Management, Customer Service, Communication, Language, National Studies and Information Technology were made available to staff to meet the developmental needs of individual officers. 

Some major programmes included an in-house workshop on EQ Training for Better Customer Service and a Supervisory Management Course conducted by CSTDI for newly appointed Senior Law Clerks II.  In-house Putonghua courses were also organised for directorate staff.

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 252 items including books, self-learning packages, videos and compact discs which are available for loan by staff.  

The Department also advocates E-learning to facilitate self-development.  Staff can access the Department's intranet to 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 78% of LAD staff have registered with the CLC compared with the civil service average of 58%.

Ms Alice Chung Yee-ling
Assistant Director of Legal Aid/Policy and Development

Information Systems Strategy

The Department's IT infrastructure and office automation facilities had been in operation for over seven years since the launch of the Information Systems Strategy Programme in 2001-2002. To maintain the quality of legal aid services delivered to the public, replacement exercises were carried out in 2009 to upgrade computer hardware and office automation software.

The Case Management and Case Accounting System which supports over 500 users in handling day-to-day legal aid business processes such as processing applications, and handling legal aid payments was further enhanced in 2009 to meet the needs brought about by the latest changes in business workflow and procedures.  To tie in with the government-wide roll out of the Financial Management Information System by the Treasury in March 2009, the Case Accounting functions in the System were modified to enable the system to handle changes made to the accounts payable processes and procedures.

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 to facilitate communications.

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 "for reference purpose only" means test calculator which allows members of the public to have an idea of their eligibility for legal aid on means if they apply for legal aid had 2 289 hits in 2009. In addition, panel lawyers could, through LAESP, download and submit Legal Aid Panel (LAP) electronic forms and electronic case management reports.


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. 

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 an excursion to the Ma Wan Park.  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 Festival were held.

During the year, the Volunteer Service Group (VSG), formed in 2002 to encourage staff participation in volunteer services participated in a "making of knots" activity, "Great Wall of Ears" carnival, "Parent-Child Sports Day" and "Flag Day" organised by the Hong Kong Society for the Deaf and organised a visit to the elderly in the St. James Settlement.  VSG also helped with fund raising activities such as Oxfam Rice Selling Campaign organised by Oxfam Hong Kong and MSF Day Fund Raising Campaign organised by Medecins Sans Frontieres.

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 made the largest donation in support of the "Dress Special Day 2009" event.

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 2009, 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 and started producing the Department's Annual Report in electronic format instead of hard copy.  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 WWF's Earth Hour on 28 March and Friends of Earth's "One-hour-long Lights Out on the Summer Solstice" on 21 June.

Office Accommodation

To safeguard confidentiality of information given by applicants or aided persons during interviews, three soundproofing interview rooms were constructed in the Crime Section.  Renovation work such as re-carpeting was carried out in the waiting area of the Application and Processing Section at the Headquarters to provide a more congenial environment to our visitors.

Wider Use of Chinese

The glossary of Chinese terms commonly used by staff for their day-to-day work was updated by the Translation Office 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 continued to provide telephone enquiry service to staff who needed assistance when drafting Chinese documents.  

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 Litigation Division conducted civil and criminal cases in Chinese where appropriate. In 2009, the Enforcement Unit launched a pilot scheme to issue enforcement proceedings in Chinese for matrimonial cases where the divorce petition was prepared in Chinese.

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

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 compliance on the use of Case Management and Case Accounting System, the implementation of Audit Commission's recommendations on recovery of legal costs by the Department and cases with outstanding Party & Party costs to be recovered since 1 April 2006.  The 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, petty cash and imprest etc.

Legal Aid Department was awarded the Grand Award of The Ombudsman's Awards 2009. Director of Legal Aid, Mr Benjamin Cheung (right) received the framed certificate.

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 the year, the Department provided the Council with 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, review of The Ombudsman's recommendation to use checklists in the monitoring of assigned out cases, Post Implementation Review of the Case Management and Case Accounting System and procedures on conducting customers' feedback on satisfaction level of services provided by LAD.

December 21
Assistant Principal Legal Aid Counsel/Kowloon Branch Office, Miss Betty Chan (left) and Senior Legal Aid Counsel/Crime, Miss Angela Mo (right) received a delegation of Mainland officials from Hainan Inspection Department, and briefed them on the service and operation of our Department.