In September 2013, JusticeNet SA commenced a pilot Self-Representation Service in the Supreme Court of South Australia. The Service was funded by a seed grant from the Law Foundation of South Australia. Following a successful first year and a positive evaluation, JusticeNet secured additional funding to expand the Service into the District Court and open 4 days per week. The Service was re-named the State Courts Self-Representation Service.
For almost six years, the Service has provided free legal advice and legal task assistance to thousands of South Australians who faced serious civil law problems but who could not afford a lawyer. The Service has delivered life-changing outcomes for many clients including avoiding or mitigating financial hardship and preventing homelessness, including some examples here.
The Service was innovative in its use of ‘unbundled’ legal assistance and the direct involvement of many volunteer lawyers. It proved highly effective at helping clients to navigate challenging civil court proceedings, and in doing so, the Service delivered cost-savings through increased court efficiency. In 2014, the Productivity Commission acknowledged that Self-Representation Services can “efficiently and effectively assist self-represented litigants where most needed, such as in complex disputes in formal settings like superior courts”. In 2015, BDO Australia carried out a cost-benefit evaluation of the comparable Federal Courts Self-Representation Service which demonstrated a cost saving of at least $2.10 for every $1 invested.
Sadly, despite its proven legal, social and economic benefits, JusticeNet has been unable to secure consistent public funding for the Service. Even with continued philanthropic support and JusticeNet’s own fundraising, the Service faces a funding shortfall too large for JusticeNet to absorb.
JusticeNet has made the difficult yet necessary decision to close the Service effective 5pm Thursday 29 August 2019.
Please note that JusticeNet’s pro bono referral scheme (Pro Bono Connect) and Federal Courts Self-Representation Service will continue to operate as normal.
We are grateful to those organisations and agencies that have provided funding for the Service, including the Law Foundation of South Australia, the Wyatt Trust, the Department for Communities and Social Inclusion and the SA Mid-Winter Ball Committee. We thank our members and many individual donors who have contributed to JusticeNet’s fundraising efforts. We also acknowledge Flinders University Law School for supporting the pilot project and the Courts Administration Authority, especially the higher courts registry staff. We express our deep gratitude to Samara Bell, Service Coordinator / Senior Solicitor, and Josh Schultz, Solicitor, for their years of tireless service and their dedication and professionalism.
Finally, the Service would not have been possible without the participation of the many volunteer lawyers and law students who collectively contributed thousands of hours of help for our clients over the lifetime of the service. Thank you to the following law firms:
Existing clients of the Service will continue to receive assistance during the winding up period, however, the Service cannot accept new enquiries or applications at this time.
Published on 08-Aug-2019
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