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Legal Services Directions and guidance notes

We assist Australian Government agencies to comply with the Legal Services Directions, through our Compliance Framework, guidance notes and education program.

We do not give general legal advice.

Legal Services Directions

The Legal Services Directions 2017 are a set of binding rules issued by the Attorney-General about the performance of Commonwealth legal work. They replace the Legal Services Directions 2005, and by operation of Appendix G, paragraph 6 of the Legal Services Directions 2017, where a pre-existing instrument or document refers to the Legal Services Directions 2005, the reference will be read as a reference to the Legal Services Directions 2017.

The directions set out requirements for sound practice in the provision of legal services to the Australian Government. They offer tools to manage legal, financial and reputational risks to the Australian Government's interests.

They also give Australian Government agencies the freedom to manage their particular risks while providing a supportive framework of good practice.

The Office of Legal Services Coordination (OLSC) administers the directions.

Notifiable instruments

On 4 May 2016, the Attorney-General issued the Legal Services Direction – time-barred abuse claims. The Direction ensured Commonwealth entities did not plead a defence based on an expired limitation period, nor oppose an application for an extension of time, in relation to personal injuries suffered from alleged child sexual abuse in an institutional context.

The Direction lapsed on 30 April 2019, so ceased to have effect from 1 May 2019. All jurisdictions have now implemented legislative amendments to remove limitation periods for claims relating to institutionalised child sexual abuse.

Training

The OLSC conducts training workshops on an as-needed basis to help Australian Government agencies understand their obligations under the Legal Services Directions, and how to comply with them.

If you would like the OLSC to provide training, email olsc@ag.gov.au or call 02 6141 3642 to discuss available options.

Guidance notes

The OLSC has prepared guidance notes to help agencies to comply with their obligations under the directions.

These notes can be downloaded below:

  1. Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975: obligation to assist the tribunal
  2. Use of in-house lawyers for court litigation
  3. Compliance with the Legal Services Directions 2017
  4. Recovery of costs
  5. Principles of constitutional litigation involving Corporate Commonwealth entities
  6. Dispute resolution during the caretaker period
  7. Reporting on significant issues
  8. Reporting of legal services expenditure (for reporting period 2022-23)
  9. Appointment to accept service under s63 of the Judiciary Act 1903 (Cth)
  10. Advice on constitutional law matters (paragraph 10A of the Legal Services Directions 2017)
  11. Briefing the Solicitor-General
  12. Use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
  13. Guiding Principles for Commonwealth entities responding to civil claims involving allegations of institutional child sexual abuse

Appendix E and disciplinary matters

We have developed guidance on how Appendix E to the Legal Services Directions 2017 applies to employment misconduct and disciplinary matters. Appendix E to the Legal Services Directions 2017 – disciplinary matters is intended to assist non-corporate Commonwealth entities and their employees, as well as persons employed as a member of a minister’s staff under the Members of Parliament (Staff) Act 1984, in managing potential requests for assistance in relation to disciplinary matters.

Guidance on the use of draft legal advice within government

We have developed Guidance on the use of draft legal advice within government. The guidance is informed by the report of the Royal Commission into the Robodebt Scheme. It is designed to ensure the Commonwealth takes a consistent approach to providing and using draft legal advice, in line with sound public administration principles and the rule of law. It applies to all legal advice provided to the Commonwealth.

Guidelines

Guidelines are available to assist agencies in the conduct of litigation involving the Commonwealth or Australian Government agencies.

We can assist to identify which non-corporate Commonwealth entity should be responsible for litigation where this is unclear.

Contact details

We maintain an email list for information about the Legal Services Directions and related topics. To be added to this list, email olsc@ag.gov.au

Office of Legal Services Coordination
02 6141 3642
Outside Australia: +61 2 6141 3642
olsc@ag.gov.au
Attorney-General's Department
3-5 National Circuit
Barton ACT 2600