In an Australian first, Slater & Gordon employed a full-time social worker in 2009 to provide a free service for its personal injury clients.
Slater & Gordon Victorian State Manager Cath Evans said “Our social workers fill a gap in caring for our clients that a lawyer can’t.”
“Our clients now get the ‘full service’ when they come to us for their legal needs.”
The demand for the service has rapidly increased since its inception. Ms Evans said the service, pioneered in Australia, had been so successful that it would be rolled out into two other states in 2011.
Part of the social workers’ role also involves raising health workers’ awareness of the importance of understanding compensation and legal systems through the coordination of the firm’s free legal education seminars.
This education assists doctors, nurses and other health professionals to understand what their patients may be entitled to, when they should access legal assistance and why it is important to see lawyers with specialist knowledge to ensure that maximum entitlements are obtained.
The legal education sessions on documentation, court appearances, privacy, capacity and medical negligence have been of particular interest to the medical and nursing sectors.
“Many health professionals are unaware about how legal processes work, or how law firms operate and, therefore, leave it up to their patients to make sense of the legal world by themselves. As a result, many injured people might not seek legal help, and could be legally and financially disadvantaged as a result,” Slater & Gordon social worker Olga Gountras said.