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Research Report: Legal referral competencies

Legal referral competencies

Legal referral competencies refer to the knowledge, skills and attitudes of the people who work in agencies within the legal referral system so as to provide an effective referral service to customers. These competencies have been developed to be used by a range of agencies and for varying purposes such as staff selection, training programs or performance reviews.

These competencies were prepared by members of the NSW Legal Referral Forum with assistance from Judy Williamson..
Legal referral competencies refer to the knowledge, skills and attitudes of the people who work in agencies within the legal referral system so as to provide an effective referral service to customers.

These competencies have been developed to be used by a range of agencies and for varying purposes. They may be used by agencies for staff selection criteria, training programs or performance reviews. These competencies can be adapted by agencies to address particular needs or developed further to include detail in relation to specific roles within the agency.

Staff providing the referral may or may not be legally trained, and may be working in either a paid or voluntary capacity. They will work in a variety of roles within agencies and make referrals either face to face, on the phone, or email. The referrals may occur within the office, at a community legal education session or at an information stall.

Value and respect the customer

  • demonstrates understanding of the principles of effective legal referral
  • shows sensitivity towards cultural, family and individual differences and any specific needs
  • demonstrates a non-judgemental attitude and and objectivity in solving the problem
  • demonstrates patience and empathy
  • maintains client confidentiality
  • utilises techniques to provide a positive experience for the customer

Identify information and referral needs of the customer
  • systematically identifies and analyses the needs of the customer
  • identifies legal and non legal issues
  • identifies the level of urgency, and complexity of the issues
  • identifies the customer's communication needs e.g. limited English, cognitive disability

Communicate effectively and appropriately with all customers
  • clarifies and checks with the customer, using techniques such as active listening, to ensure understanding of their issues and needs
  • demonstrates a knowledge and understanding of culturally appropriate behaviour
  • uses appropriate and relevant questioning techniques to ascertain the customer's legal and non legal needs
  • utilises techniques to establish rapport with the customer
  • uses plain language appropriate to the customer's level of education without being condescending
  • assists the customer with relevant legal language and knowledge
  • communicates purpose and limits of the services provided by own agency

Make referrals appropriate to the needs of the customer
  • ·proceeds systematically through the problem
  • explains own legal limitations to the customer
  • communicates purpose of the referral
  • provides accurate and up to date information, including possible limitations or lack of availability of services
  • provides the customer with realistic expectation of assistance from the service to which they are being referred, e.g. waiting lists, advice only, free
  • provides written referrals when appropriate, including details of locations of new organisation and name of contact person
  • demonstrates knowledge and understanding of applying different strategies to address various aspects of the customer's needs e.g. accesses special services such as interpreting services when necessary
  • considers cultural factors in the referral
  • identifies and offers alternative referral options to the customer if appropriate
  • mixes passive, active and supported referrals as appropriate
  • advocates for the customer if necessary and when appropriate to the role of organisation
  • provides consistent service
  • encourages customer to provide feedback, particularly if the referral is unsuccessful

Knowledge of the law and legal system
  • demonstrates appropriate knowledge of the legal system including courts, tribunals, legislation and jurisdictions
  • demonstrates knowledge of different types of law e.g. civil, family, criminal, administrative law
  • demonstrates an understanding of basic legal process, in order to identify where a customer is within a particular process e.g. letter of demand, summons
  • demonstrates knowledge of options for customers with a legal problem e.g. alternative dispute resolution
  • demonstrates knowledge of limitation dates
  • demonstrates understanding of the difference between giving legal information and legal advice
  • uses appropriate tools and resources e.g. guides to the law

Knowledge of service providers
  • demonstrates knowledge of the roles of services within the legal system e.g. chamber magistrates
  • applies knowledge of the roles, criteria and limitations of other services
  • applies knowledge of pro bono services and guidelines
  • demonstrates knowledge of the geographical area within which referrals are made
  • demonstrates an understanding of relationships between service providers
  • participates in formal and informal networks and has the ability to represent the agency
  • uses appropriate tools and resources e.g. referral databases and guides

Participate in and know about own agency
  • demonstrates knowledge of services provided by own agency, including any limitations on service provision
  • applies agency procedures and protocols in making a referral including record keeping and reporting
  • demonstrates an understanding of specific limitations of work role, responsibilities and professional abilities
  • actively engages in the dissemination and updating of referral information

Other references
  • Community Services Training Package, National Training Information Service,
  • Partnerships Against Domestic Violence (2000). Competency Standards for People Who Come into Professional Contact with Those Affected by Domestic/Family Violence: Final Draft.
    National competency standards for people who come into professional contact with those affected by domestic violence. The competency standards have been developed in accordance with the Australian National Training Authority's Training package Guidelines and will form part of the Community Services Training Package.