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Identifying for referral to the solicitor’s panels

An applicant can be referred to a solicitor in a private firm who has agreed to act in certain family law cases.. Legal Services maintain lists of private solicitors who have agreed to act in certain District Court family law cases and Circuit Court family law cases, and who have been placed on the Board’s solicitors panels for such cases. These panels are available on iLAB under “Private Practitioner Panel”.

The principal District Court matters that are eligible for referral to the solicitors panel are:

  • domestic violence cases (which are prioritised);
  • custody, access, guardianship, and other applications under the Guardianship of Infants Act 1964; and
  • maintenance

In Dublin, only the Dolphin House Service is usually authorised to make referrals to the solicitors panels. Outside Dublin, law centres may make referrals to the solicitors panels subject to the guidelines and restrictions which may be placed on the service from time to time (see Chapter 6).

In international protection matters, clients may be referred to a private solicitor from the advice stage of the case in line with certain limits set down by the Director of Civil Legal Aid from time to time.

General guidelines for referral to the solicitors panels

Detailed procedures for referring cases to the solicitors panels can be found in è Chapter 6

Managing solicitors (or where authorised, a designated staff member acting under delegated authority from the managing solicitor) are not precluded from referring out a case to  the District Court Solicitors Panel merely because it is not the next application on the applications record. If the case is likely to be referred to the panel on account of the demand at the Centre, a conflict of interest or for geographical reasons, an early decision should be made in relation to the referral. No case should be referred out ahead of an earlier case on the applications record where the reason for referral is the same e.g, if a case is being referred out because of the level of demand at the centre, it should not be referred out ahead of another similarly referable case.

There is no issue with referring an applicant to a private solicitor where the other parties’ application has been processed by the law centre and referred to a private solicitor or indeed seen by a law centre solicitor. However, where the latter is the case, the second party to apply must be referred to a private practitioner without seeing a solicitor in the law centre i.e while on the applications record for a first consultation.

In principle, a person who applies for legal aid for an appeal who had been referred to the solicitors panel should be referred again for the appeal.

There is NO difference in the applications procedure between a case which is referred to the solicitors panel and one which is not. It is simply a different method of providing a service.

A decision to refer any client to a panel may only be taken by a managing solicitor or designated staff member who must act in accordance with management guidelines in relation to referrals set out in Chapter 6.

Circuit Court solicitors panel

A solicitors panel also exists for divorce and judicial separation cases in the Circuit Court. The authorisation of the Director of Civil Legal Aid/Regional Manager must be sought where it is proposed to refer any Circuit Court judicial separation or divorce case to a private solicitor.