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Ownership of Legal Aid files

Who owns Legal Aid Files?

Requests from clients to access information contained with a Legal Aid file will be considered in accordance with the ownership of Legal Aid files guidelines contained within the Grants Policy Manual.

Interpretation

Rule 14 of the Australian Solicitor's Conduct Rules 2012 provides:

14 Client documents

14.1 A solicitor with designated responsibility for a client's matter, must ensure that, upon completion or termination of the law practice's engagement:
14.1.1 the client or former client; or
14.1.2 another person authorised by the client or former client,

is given any client documents, (or if they are electronic documents copies of those documents), as soon as reasonably possible when requested to do so by the client, unless there is an effective lien.

14.2 A solicitor or solicitor's law practice may destroy client documents after a period of 7 years has elapsed since the completion or termination of the engagement, except where there are client instructions or legislation to the contrary.

LAQ, as a Queensland statutory authority, and preferred suppliers as contracted service providers of LAQ, are required to comply with the Information Privacy Principles (IPP's). IPP6 allows individuals to request access to their personal information.

IPP 6 - Access to documents containing personal information

  1. An agency having control of a document containing personal information must give an individual the subject of the personal information access to the document if the individual asks for access.
  2. An agency is not required to give an individual access to a document under subsection (1) if
    1. a. the agency is authorised or required under an access law to refuse to give the access to the individual; or
    2. b. the document is expressly excluded from the operation of an access law.

A request for access to documents may be refused where an exemption applies. Example 1: when an individual who is not the client requests access to the file, access should be refused on the basis of legal professional privilege. Example 2: when a client requests access to a document that the lawyer is prohibited from disclosing to the client by way of court order or a provision in other legislation, access should be refused.

When a file is transferred to another practitioner or the file is handed over to the client, practitioners should keep in mind that the client's financial particulars, supporting merit checklist material and material to support any claims will be reviewed as part of the Preferred Supplier audit process. A copy of the following information/material should therefore be retained:

  • Documentation to verify the financial information and the certified merit checklist information submitted electronically to Legal Aid Queensland
  • file notes for personal, group conference and court attendances
  • file notes for preparation
  • copies of invoices for expert reports and any receipt for outlays claimed.
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