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 2010, the Department had 515 staff comprising 73 professional officers, 155 law clerks and 287 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 2010, a number of general and professional training courses were arranged for staff at all levels.  Some of the major training initiatives are described below:

Job-Related Professional Training

34 Legal Aid Counsel Grade officers attended law seminars and conference organised by external training bodies on topics ranging from Civil Justice Reform, Personal Injury Litigation, Convention Against Torture Claims and Refugee Law, etc. to keep abreast of development in the areas of law relevant to their work. With the extended coverage of mediation by legal aid and the increasing use of mediation in civil proceedings, the Department was honoured that 2 High Court judges gave a briefing to the professional officers on mediation. To enable staff to have more than a cursory knowledge on what mediation is about and how it works in practice, the Department organised a seminar and role play session conducted by an accredited mediator. In-house briefings were also held for law clerks and support staff to build up their working knowledge on mediation.   In-house talks on the role/responsibilities of professional officers and Law Clerk Grade staff in the Civil Litigation Section (2) and Crime Section were also organised.  In addition, in-house job related talks on Assessment of Assigned Solicitors' Bills, Employees' Compensation Claims, Legal Aid Ordinance, Race Discrimination Ordinance etc were arranged for staff.  In all, 213 Counsel Grade and Law Clerk Grade officers attended these talks.

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

Training on General Subjects

A wide range of internal and external courses on general subjects such as management, customer service, communication, language, national studies, Basic Law and information technology were made available to staff to meet the developmental needs of individual officers. 

Assistant Principal Legal Aid Counsel (Crime), Ms. YW Mo (fifth from left), and Senior Legal Aid Counsel (Civil Litigation), Ms. Juliana MK Chan (fourth from left) spoke to 18 Mainland officials under Training Scheme in Common Law 2009/2010 on 8 June 2010. The picture shows participants under the training scheme taking a group picture with the speakers after the session.

Some major programmes included executive development programmes for directorate officers and a leadership workshop conducted by Civil Service Training and Development Institute for Senior Law Clerks I & II. In-house Putonghua courses were also organised for directorate officers, professional officers and Law Clerk Grade staff.

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.  Over 258 items including books, self-learning packages, videos and compact discs were 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.  Lecture notes and materials on in-house job-related talks were uploaded to the Department Portal for access by staff.

Besides the Departmental Portal, staff can also access the government's Cyber Learning Centre (CLC). It enables them to receive tuition anytime, anywhere and at their own pace. 

Information Systems Strategy

The Department launched its Information Systems Strategy Programme in 2001-2002 and throughout the years has been updating its IT infrastructure and office automation facilities to facilitate delivery of legal aid services to the public by staff of the Department. 

The Case Management and Case Accounting System which supports over 500 staff users in handling day-to-day legal aid business processes such as processing applications and handling legal aid payments was further enhanced in 2010 to meet the needs brought about by the latest changes in business workflow and procedures.  Payment by Phone Service (PPS) was introduced to the system in June 2010 for payment of contributions and judgment debts by instalments. The System was also enhanced to capture information and statistics relating to the engagement of mediators in aided civil proceedings 

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 means test calculator gives members of the public an idea of their eligibility for legal aid on means had 2 754 hits in 2010.  In addition, panel lawyers could, through LAESP, download and submit Legal Aid Panel (LAP) electronic forms and electronic case management reports.

Ms Juliana Chan Oi-yung
Assistant Principal Legal Aid Counsel
(Legal and Management Support)

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 training on answering hotline enquiries and management of first aid boxes.

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 received their views on work arrangements and procedures for further 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 general grades staff to canvas their views on work and to explore areas for improvement. The Department continued to publish staff newsletter three times a year in order to keep staff abreast of development in the Department and to promote their sense of belonging.

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 Shi Chau Geo Trail located in Tai Po.  Various classes on interests such as knitting, baking and Chinese calligraphy were also organised.

Staff welfare and recreational activities including the Annual Dinner 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 helped with fund raising activities such as Rice Selling Campaign organised by Oxfam Hong Kong and MSF Day Fund Raising Campaign organised by Medecins Sans Frontieres.

In addition, the Department also teamed up with the Association of the Rights of Industrial Accident Victims and participated in the "Caring Cooking Competition" which was a fund raising event organized by the Law Society of Hong Kong. Our representatives won the Best Team Image Award and the Best First Dish Award and raised over $10,000 for the benefit of the Association.

The "Caring Cooking Competition", a charity event organized by The Law Society of Hong Kong, was successfully held on 6 November 2010 at the Chinese Cuisine Training Institute. Deputy Director of Legal Aid (Litigation), Ms. Jennie Hui (second from left) and the ardent team won the Best Team Image Award and Best First Dish Award and helped raise fund for the Association of the Rights of Industrial Accident Victims.

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 "Community Chest Dress Special Day 2010" event.

Legal Aid Department was awarded the Top Fund Raiser Award and the Highest Per Capita Contribution Award in the Civil Service category of the Community Chest's Dress Special Day 2009. Ag. Deputy Director of Legal Aid / Administration, Ms. Alice Chung (middle) and Assistant Principal Legal Aid Counsel / Legal and Management Support, Ms. Doris Lui (left) received one of the trophies on 9 March 2010.

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.  Details of the Department's environmental initiatives in 2010 can be found in the Department's Environmental Report at 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. Apart from producing the Department's Annual Report in electronic format instead of hard copy, the Department also provided in-house training materials to staff in soft copies and uploaded the materials to Department's intranet for staff ease of reference. Paperless meetings were conducted to reduce the printing of agenda, minutes of meeting and reference materials. With the introduction of Payment by Phone Service for payment of contributions and judgment sums, papers were saved as the issue and mailing of receipts were no longer necessary.  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 enhance security, cameras for closed-circuit television were installed at the lift lobby of the Department's Headquarters offices at 24/F - 27/F, Queensway Government Offices.

Public Access Defibrillator Programme

The Department became a participating department in the Public Access Defibrillators Programme launched by Fire Services Department (FSD).  Upon joining the programme, the Department installed Automated External Defibrillators (AED) in the Department's Headquarters, Kowloon Branch Office and Hong Kong Sub-office. A total of 18 staff of law clerk grade and general grade attended a 1-day training course provided by FSD on how to operate the AED and apply cardiopulmonary resuscitation to cardiac arrest patients.

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 continued to promote the use of Chinese through the Language Platform by posting articles regularly on the intranet on matters of interest relating to Chinese culture and giving useful tips that helped staff to improve their Chinese writing skills.

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 implementation of the Office of the Ombudsman's recommendations on monitoring of assigned-out cases, the relevant procurement procedures and regulations in order to identify areas for improvement, the assignment out system of the Crime Section and cases with outstanding Party & Party costs to be recovered since 1 April 2006.  The IAS also carried out an audit on 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.

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 legal aid assistance to employees for wages claims and assignment of solicitors, counsel and senior counsel in legal aid cases.

The Ombudsman's Award 2010
Ms Winnie Lau, Deputy Departmental Secretary,
Administration Section

Ms Lau joined the Department in May 2005 as Deputy Departmental Secretary. As part of her duties, she took on the role of Departmental Complaints Officer and was made responsible for developing the complaint handling mechanism of the Department. When receiving complaints and representations, Ms Lau was very tactful and patient. With her excellent interpersonal skills and work knowledge, she was able to deal with the complainants competently.  In recognition and appreciation of her customer service skills, Ms Lau was awarded The Ombudsman's Award 2010. Ms Lau has the following to say about the award: "As a civil servant, I am committed to perform my duties to the best of my ability. I am devoted to serve my clients wholeheartedly and with empathy. I would listen to their needs and strive to provide quality service to them. When it was not feasible to satisfy their demands, I would patiently explain to them the reasons for not being able to do so".

Secretary For Civil Services' Award
Ms Fanny Mok, Senior Law Clerk I,
Application and Processing Division

Ms Fanny Mok, a recipient of the Secretary for Civil Services' Award Scheme in 2010, joined the Department as a law clerk in January 1988 and was promoted to her present post as Senior Law Clerk I in March 2009.

Ms Mok is a very responsible and dedicated officer. She is known for her thoughtfulness and pursuit of excellence in everything that she does. As Senior Law Clerk I of the Application & Processing Division, Ms Mok firmly believes that a well designed computer system is essential and conducive to the effective and efficient discharge of the work in the Application & Processing Division. As such, she has taken a proactive role in ensuring that the capabilities of the Department's Case Management and Case Accounting Computer System were fully utilized and enhancements to the system carried out promptly to meet the changing need of the Department and to fulfill its aim of providing quality legal aid services to the public.