Where a legal aid certificate is granted, the Director of Legal Aid may act for the aided person through lawyers employed in the Legal Aid Department. In civil cases, if the Director does not act for the aided person, he or the aided person may select a solicitor or counsel to act for the aided person. The Director maintains separate panels of counsel and solicitors who are willing to investigate, report and give opinion upon applications for legal aid and to act for aided persons, as required under the Legal Aid Ordinance.
Counsel or solicitors holding current practising certificates may apply to join the Legal Aid Panel, unless the Director is satisfied that there is good reason to exclude them by reason of their conduct in any particular case or their professional conduct generally. There are more than 1,200 counsel and 2,400 solicitors on the Panel.
To join the Panel, counsel or solicitors have to complete a Panel Entry Form (Form LAP3 - for counsel; Form LAP1 - for solicitors) giving their personal particulars and information on their experience and expertise. Counsel or solicitors already on the Panel may make use of the Data Update Form (Form LAP4 - for counsel; Form LAP2 - for solicitors) to notify the Director of any changes to the information provided since joining the Panel, or the Removal Form (Form LAP5) to request removal of their names from the Panel. Counsel who have less than 7 years’ post-qualification experience are required to provide reference letters from two referees upon submission of Panel Entry/Data Update Form. Referees can be judges or private legal practitioners with not less than 7 years’ post-qualification experience. Solicitors who are not the Senior Partner / Sole Proprietor of the firm are required to provide reference letter from their Senior Partner / Sole Proprietor upon submission of Panel Entry/Data Update Form. Counsel and Solicitors should use the standard reference letter provided by us (Standard reference letter for Counsel; Standard reference letter for Solicitor). As Senior Counsel are exempted from the minimum experience requirements for assignment of legal aid work, they are not required, when applying to join the Legal Aid Panel or completing the Panel Update Form, to provide particulars on the number of cases they have handled in the past 3 years. They should, however, indicate the areas of civil and/or criminal work they wish to be considered for assignment.
To help protect the environment, counsel and solicitors are encouraged to use Legal Aid Electronic Services Portal (LAESP) to download and submit the forms electronically. The Data Update Form and Removal Form downloaded from LAESP will, based on the latest information we have, contain some pre-filled data to facilitate counsel or solicitors already on the Panel to complete the forms quickly and conveniently.
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