Victoria Legal Aid Handbook for Lawyers

Guideline 1 – general guideline for Commonwealth civil matters

1.1 – consideration of resolution processes other than litigation

Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) may make a grant of legal assistance for mediation of a dispute where the person applying falls within the category of disadvantaged client.

1.2 – matters not dealt with in the Commonwealth civil law guidelines

VLA may make a grant of legal assistance for litigation where the person applying falls within the category of disadvantaged client.

In determining if a person is disadvantaged for the purposes of guidelines 1.1 and 1.2, VLA may take into account:

  • the practical or material benefit to be gained, or the detriment or loss at risk
  • whether the case is so complex that it could not be presented to the court without legal representation
  • whether the person’s ability to communicate and/or self-represent is affected by:
    • Serious mental health issue
    • intellectual or physical disability
    • having a first language other than English
    • reading or writing difficulty
    • existence of financial stress/material deprivation
    • housing disability
    • remoteness of location and access to service providers
    • issues of joblessness and/or long-term unemployment.

Housing disability

Housing disability may be indicated by homelessness or low income earners who have private rental housing costs exceeding 30 per cent of their household income

1.3 – damages actions

VLA will not make a grant of legal assistance to a person for a court action if it is likely that they will receive an award of damages or property if their action succeeds and, based on the material provided:

  • it would be reasonable for the action to be conducted under a conditional costs agreement or similar arrangement with a private lawyer
  • the person can obtain appropriate legal help from another source.

Documentary requirements

Applications under this guideline can only be submitted via the standard grants assessment process.

An in-house lawyer or a member of the section 30 referral panel seeking a grant of assistance should submit an application via ATLASExternal Link for assessment, including all of the following documents:

  • a statement of the lawyer’s opinion about how the matter meets guideline 1.1, 1.2 or 1.3, as applicable
  • details of the proposed claim or defence
  • the lawyer’s assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the claim
  • reference to how the matter meets the Commonwealth merits test
  • documentary proof of any special circumstances
  • relevant proof of means.

Reviewed 26 April 2023

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