First Step Legal is predominantly a criminal law practice, providing pro bono legal advice and representation to clients actively engaged in treatment.
First Step Legal is a unique community legal centre that from its inception has offered legal assistance on a pro bono basis, yet receives no state or federal government funding.
The health-justice partnership was conceived with the understanding that legal issues create stress. This stress can lead to ill health and pose a significant risk of compromising rehabilitation and destabilising the recovery of those dealing with mental health and addiction issues. This is detrimental not only to the individual, but also to the wider community, with the associated implications of relapse, mental health deterioration and a heightened risk of reoffending.
The objective of First Step Legal is to provide an on-site, fully funded legal service to clients in order to ensure that legal issues do not derail rehabilitation efforts.
The First Step Legal model is more than a co-location of services. It involves an integrated and coordinated approach to supporting people dealing with mental health and addiction issues. Integrating legal services into a healthcare setting not only provides a direct referral pathway between health professionals and legal practitioners but also contributes to better legal and health outcomes for our clients.
First Step Legal strives to ensure that clients are well informed about the legal process throughout the proceedings, to enable them to make informed decisions. Treating professionals are advised of the status of the proceedings at each stage of the process, to ensure that the client receives adequate support throughout the stressful period.
First Step Legal works collaboratively with the treating professionals to help stabilise and support clients in their recovery and achieve court dispositions that support the clients’ ongoing treatment and recovery in the community.
Recent feedback from our clients
First Step Legal is accredited with the National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC).
Our principal lawyer, Tania Wolff, is an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist through the Law Institute of Victoria.
Eligible clients are patients of First Step (health service) who are actively engaged in treatment and may be facing criminal proceedings in Victoria or have other legal issues such as tenancy, infringement, intervention order, civil debt, or family law issues.
Where the legal service does not have the resources to directly handle the matter ourselves, we make referrals to practitioners who are experienced in practice in the relevant area of law. Our referrals are carefully considered and the outcomes are reported back to us by the practitioners to whom we have referred our client.
First Step patients can ask to speak to a lawyer at First Step Legal who will determine if they are eligible for support from this service.
Contact the clinic on 9537 3177.
Click here to view a great overview of the program from our recent poster presentation at the Health Justice Partnerships conference in Melbourne.