The Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department funds a litigation advocate to provide advice and representation in civil matters in the Magistrates' Court and Tribunals for legal centre clients. The Litigation Advocate represents clients on a range of small-scale civil matters.
Areas of law covered by the Litigation Advocate
Ordinary civil cases at Magistrates' Court level including:
- Consumer claims
- Motor accidents
- Tenancy/neighbour disputes
- Solicitor complaints
- Equal opportunity and crimes compensation
The emphasis of the advocate program is on negotiated settlement, providing advice to caseworkers on legal strategies, the likely success of cases, case preparation and procedural requirements. The Litigation Advocate runs client files and also accepts briefs to appear in court.
The services of the Litigation Advocate can be accessed in three different ways:
- Some cases are managed by Professional Practice students at Monash-Oakleigh and Springvale Monash Legal Services under supervision and in conjunction with the advocate.
- Students from Monash-Oakleigh and Springvale Monash Legal Services, as well as caseworkers from other participating legal services act as instructing solicitors and brief the Litigation Advocate to act as counsel.
- The Advocate runs some matters referred to him/her by legal services independently.
How a case is managed depends on several factors, including the client's best interests, benefits of a student's involvement, as well as the Advocate's availability at the time.
Procedure for referrals
Legal service caseworkers and Professional Practice students can make initial contact by phoning the Monash-Oakleigh Legal Service (MOLS) on (03) 9905 4336. Individuals with a legal problem should contact their nearest community legal service, who can make a referral if necessary.
There are no set criteria for assistance, but clients are generally eligible if they cannot pay for the cost of a private practitioner and their matters are within categories of problems handled by the service and would be eligible for Legal Aid were it not a civil matter.
Clients with a civil claim who cannot pursue or defend that claim due to financial hardship and who are disadvantaged by language barriers, unemployment or old age, will be represented. The relevant civil matter must fall within the categories of problems handled by MOLS. As the focus of the Litigation Advocate's work is on resolution, willingness to undertake dispute resolution procedures or mediation may be a prerequisite to assistance in some cases.
The Litigation Advocate can be contacted through the MOLS on (03) 9905 4336.