Annual Report 2006


 

Chapter 6: Progress Achieved in reaching Goal 3 - Chief State Solicitor’s Office

 

Goal 3 - Chief State Solicitor’s Office

To deliver a high quality specialist solicitor service to the Attorney General, the Departments and Offices in the areas of litigation, provision of legal advice and in property and transactional matters.

 

Objective 1

To use best practice in the delivery of legal services supported by the use of information technology and high quality knowledge and understanding of legal practice.

Strategy 1
To develop further specialisation in work of importance to client Departments.

Performance Indicators

  • Number of legal practice activities that are outsourced;
  • Agreements with client Departments on how emerging legal issues are to be addressed;
  • Knowledge Management procedures in place to facilitate acquiring expertise in new legal issues;
  • Redeployed resources in response to changing needs.

Strategy 2
Continue the implementation of the electronic case management system which is shared with the Attorney General’s Office.

Performance Indicators

  • Achieve roll-out to all intended users in 2006;
  • Deliver training to all intended users in line with roll-out;
  • Document protocols for the proper use and application of the system by all users in line with roll-out.

Strategy 3
Implement new record management policy (i.e, the Eneclann policy as accepted in CSSO).

Performance Indicators

  • Provision of storage/accommodation for files and records on a divisional basis, Q4, 2006;
  • Write up protocols for the handling and storage of paper files, post ACME. Q2, 2006;
  • Deliver on obligations to transfer files to National Archives.

Strategy 4
Maintain and develop high quality documentation and work-flows to support the generation of legal correspondence and documents used by the Office.

Performance Indicators

  • Maintain a group to review the standards in work-flows and documentation, monitor new requirements and minute the work of this group to enable monitoring of performance;
  • Section heads to identify appropriate changes to work-flows or documentation, as required.

Strategy 5
Apply the principles of risk management to specific areas of law practice with a view to minimising error or delay.

Performance Indicator

  • Each section to be mandated to deal with risk management in their business plans. Risks to include risk of error, delay or failure of ‘know-how’. Each business plan to identify the most serious risks likely to affect the work of the section and to put in place measures to avoid or minimise the occurrence of such risk.

Strategy 6
Continue the ‘know-how’ and KM procedures of the Office including the procedures to be followed within each section.

Performance Indicator

  • Delivery of ‘know-how’ and KM material to be recorded by the Library and Information Unit. Section meetings to minute the attention of the section to ‘know-how’ and KM procedures and material.

Strategy 7
Utilise the optimum deployment of staff in such a way as to align staff to emerging areas of demand for legal service and away from declining areas.

Performance Indicators

  • Review staffing allocations in the areas of asylum law, extradition & EAWs and commercial contracts with a view to building capacity;
  • Review staffing allocations in the areas of Army Hearing Loss, Personal Injuries and Tortious Claims with a view to re-organisation of work and re-distribution of staff. Complete by end Q3, 2006;
  • Review staffing allocations in the areas of State Property Division with a view to delivering the legal services to support the Government’s policy of decentralisation, i.e., the legal work arising from the sale and acquisition of State properties used for the accommodation of civil servants. Complete by end Q3, 2006.

Strategy 8
Optimise deployment of staff and working methods to support the best defence of mass litigation.

Performance Indicators

  • Liaise with Attorney General’s Office in identifying emerging areas of mass litigation and review at Main MAC;
  • Liaise with State Claims Agency with a view to obtaining best claims management input in cases in which the Office is on record. Meeting quarterly with SCA to assess quality and effectiveness of both case management and legal service;
  • Complete transfer of responsibility for handling of outstanding Army Hearing Loss to State Claims Agency by end January, 2006;
  • Liaise with Attorney General’s Office and State Claims Agency with a view to obtaining best claims management input and legal service and case strategy in child abuse litigation. Meet quarterly with AGO/SCA to assess quality and effectiveness of case management, strategy and legal service.

Strategy 9
Optimise deployment of staff to support the best use of legal staff working on atypical working arrangements.

Performance Indicators

  • Analyse future trends in atypical working arrangements for solicitor and legal executive staff as likely to be encountered by the Office over the next ten years and develop policy to manage in this context. MAC discussions to be completed by end September, 2006. Draft policy to be prepared by end May, 2006 and to be brought to Partnership for discussion. Policy to be adopted by end Q4, 2006;
  • Review working methods to make them as compatible as possible with family friendly working arrangements for solicitors and legal executives. Pilot study to be completed in Common Law Litigation Division by end Q3, 2006.

Strategy 10
Arrangement for transfer of State Solicitor Service to Director of Public Prosecutions.

Performance Indicators

  • Enter next phase of negotiations in January, 2006;
  • Complete negotiations by November, 2006;
  • Transfer service end Q4, 2006;
  • Participate in transitional arrangements until, c.Q4, 2006;
  • Bring forward policy on provision of legal services outside of Dublin in civil law areas, and related services where no longer provided by local State Solicitors. Policy document to be ready for end Q3, 2006.

Strategy 11
Arrange for transfer of Attorney General’s Scheme to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to re-integrate resources to other legal cost accounting areas.

Performance Indicators

  • Raise with Department in early 2006;
  • Transfer to be complete by end Q4, 2006.

Strategy 12
Maintain the capability to provide a legal service in critical legal services areas outside of normal office hours.

Performance Indicator

  • Continue the use of the ‘on-call’ panel of solicitors and legal executives whereby legal staff are available on a rota to respond to demands arising outside of normal working hours on a 24/7 basis. Panel to be managed by Section Head in Justice and Crime and his record to be available for audit.

Note: Strategies 5, 6,7, 8 and 9 are also reflected in the Business Support Services Section.

 

Objective 2

To operate in a costs conscious manner and to provide value for money in the legal service delivered.

Strategy 1
Measure value for money.

Performance Indicators

  • Conduct VFM exercises in the following areas.
    • Training costs (by end Q3, 2006);
    • CSSO Library costs (by end Q2, 2007);
    • Counsels fees in Asylum Cases (by end Q4, 2007);
    • Experts fees (by end Q2, 2008).

Strategy 2
Ensure integration between financial management system and case and records management system at Division Head/Section Head levels.

Performance Indicators

  • Financial Management System in use in Merrion Street Office and CSSO in 2006;
  • IT management and technical support for ACME and associated projects provided;
  • Training to support roll-out and on-going operation of ACME and associated projects provided;
  • Documentation of IT development to support future maintenance and on-going development completed.

Note: Strategies 1 and 2 above are also reflected in the Business Support Services Section.

 

Progress achieved

Objective 1

During 2006 the Chief State Solicitor’s Office continued with the development and enhancement of specialist legal services in areas of importance to client Departments and Offices. In consultation with client Departments and Offices, the primary focus for the Office was on identifying current areas of work which are expanding and new areas of work such as commercial contracts, employment law, day school abuse litigation, residential abuse litigation, special needs and child welfare litigation.

In some instances the Office redeployed its resources to meet the changing needs of clients. Some of the major initiatives introduced during the year included:

  • Redeployment of staff to the Personal Injuries, Judicial Review and Office of Public Works/Health and Children Sections from the Army Hearing Loss Section upon the closure of that Section;
  • Transfer of delegated personal injuries claims from the Office back to the State Claims Agency and the reorganisation of Garda work within the Justice and Common Law Division with the intention of developing the Personal Injuries Section into a Garda civil claims Section;
  • Continued provision of a conveyancing service for the Government Decentralisation Programme;
  • Continued development of the Commercial Contracts Section;
  • Continued provision of a specialised service handling asylum immigration and repatriation cases;
  • Continued operation of an on-call panel to deal with European Arrest Warrants, Extraditions, habeas corpus applications and other urgent Court applications out-of-office hours;
  • Continued operation of a dedicated Unit to handle work before the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse;
  • Continued operation of a special Unit to deal with residential abuse litigation;
  • Continued operation of a team to deal with day school abuse litigation;
  • Continued operation of a team to deal with special needs welfare cases.

Case and Records Management System (ACME)
During 2006, development of the new Case and Records Management System continued and the system was further rolled out to a number of areas across the CSSO. These work areas included all European Court of Justice, European Court of Human Rights, Ministerial Prosecutions (Legal Services Section, CSSO), Mutual Assistance (Legal Services Section, CSSO), Arbitration/Tribunals - Employment/ Tribunals - Commissions and remaining areas of the Advisory Division of the CSSO.

With the continued usage of the system by more users and across an increasing range of cases, enhancement requests were noted and where appropriate implemented into the system or were scheduled for future dates.

Training on the use of the system was delivered as appropriate to staff in line with timelines of the roll-out of the system across the Office.

In the context of the roll-out of the ACME system the CSSO implemented new procedures as outlined in the records management policy. Accommodation requirements for the storage of files on a Divisional basis was reviewed and provided as appropriate.

During the year staff in the Registry and Records Centre reviewed files with a view to meeting obligations for the transfer of files under the National Archives Act.

Risk Management
During 2006, the CSSO actively contributed to the development and implementation of formal risk management policies within the Office as a whole. Throughout the year, risk related matters were discussed at Divisional and Section meetings, local and Legal MAC meetings. Divisional Heads attended and contributed to meetings of the joint Merrion Street Office/CSSO Risk Management Committee in the context of the Committee’s development of an Office-wide risk management strategy including a risk policy, a corporate risk register and individual Group and Business Unit risk registers. In the latter part of the year, the CSSO MAC discussed the issue of a corporate risk register for the Office and individual risk registers were reviewed at Divisional and Section level in the context of future business planning.

Knowledge Management
During 2006, the CSSO continued to promote a culture of knowledge-sharing within the Office and between the CSSO and the Merrion Street Office. Legal Issues meetings were held regularly during the year and were attended by CSSO legal staff. Work on identifying communities of practice which would be supported by the Offices to enhance knowledge-sharing in critical legal areas continued during the year. The CSSO Library and Know-how Unit continued to promote legal research skills and assist staff in attaining a level of proficiency in the use of electronic sources of legal information.

Management of Litigation - particularly mass claims
In line with the whole of Office strategy to manage litigation, particularly mass claims the CSSO attended regular review meetings with Advisory Counsel in the Merrion Street Office and officials in the relevant Departments to ensure that mass litigation was being effectively managed on an ongoing basis. With regard to child abuse litigation, close liaison was maintained between the CSSO and the State Claims Agency which managed the litigation.

During 2006, the CSSO continued to operate specific initiatives and introduced new initiatives to manage mass litigation, including:-

  • Reorganising the work of the specialist teams dealing with both day school and residential abuse litigation in the light of the delegation of the claims to the State Claims Agency;
  • Continuation of a Unit to deal exclusively with work before the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse;
  • Continued operation of dedicated teams to handle special needs litigation and child welfare litigation;
  • Continuing to provide a specialised service handling asylum, immigration and repatriation cases;
  • Transfer responsibility for handling of outstanding Army Hearing Loss cases to State Claims Agency and deploying staff to other areas of work.

Deployment of staff on atypical working arrangements
A Pilot project on atypical working arrangements for solicitors and legal executives was undertaken in the Tortious Claims Section (Common Law Litigation Division) in 2006. The outcome of same was the implementation of a procedure whereby cases dealt with by legal staff working atypical hours are progressed by such staff until they reach Notice of Trial stage and are then handed over to the Section Head for re-assignment to full-time legal staff.

Transfer of State Solicitor Service to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions
Significant progress was achieved in 2006 to finalise arrangements for the transfer of responsibility for the local State solicitor service to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions pursuant to the Nally Report. Meetings and negotiations took place throughout the year between the CSSO, the DPPO and the State Solicitors Association in regard to matters relating to the transfer. By year-end negotiations were nearing completion with a view to the completion of the transfer of the service by early-2007.

Administration of the Attorney General’s Scheme
By year-end agreement, in principle, was reached with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform on arrangements for the transfer of future responsibility for the administration of the Attorney General’s Scheme to the Department to commence on the 1st February 2007. The issue of identifying and clearing a backlog of payments to be made under the Scheme was completed during the year in advance of the transfer of the administration of the Scheme to the Department.

Provision of critical legal services outside of normal Office hours
During 2006, the CSSO continued to provide critical legal services outside of normal Office hours to meet the needs of clients. The ‘on-call’ panel of solicitors and legal executives operated very effectively throughout the year.

 

Objective 2

Measure Value for Money
The CSSO has progressed the Value for Money Reviews (VFM) in respect of the Attorney General’s Scheme, Costs Recovery and Stenographer’s Services. Due to other pressures on staff time it has not been possible to complete these reviews. For this reason the Review of CSSO Library costs has been deferred until later in 2007.

Integration between Financial Management System and Case and Records Management System
The Financial Management System was used for processing of all payments with the exception of payroll. During 2006, a set of management reports containing both financial and non-financial information was developed and presented to MAC. These reports will be further developed in the future as the roll-out of ACME continues.

Management and technical support for ACME and associated projects continues to be provided with technical and business users fully participating in the project. The CSSO appointed a staff member as a full-time trainer to ACME during the year. A process to appoint an external trainer was initiated.

 

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