Case closure protocols
In planning for your legal aid program, you should define what it means to close a case. This could be:
- when a decision is taken on a case by a tribunal,
- when a client has been unreachable for a certain period of time,
- when circumstances change such that the case is no longer relevant or its substance changes such that a new legal services agreement is signed,
- when the legal agreement signed with the client is complete: all services you agreed to offer have been rendered.
The closure of a case may follow these steps:
Notifying a client of the termination of services
If your organization decides to terminate the services using the Client Warning Form, the outcome of the client should be noted before the organization closes the file. If no outcome was reached, VLAs or the Legal Services Manager/Coordinator should register the outcome as “Not Applicable.” Below is a template for a Client Warning Form. This form is used to notify your clients of a termination of or alteration to services. You may also choose to note in your initial legal agreement with the client that the case will be closed when any of the above apply. This may save you notifying the client of an official closure: it would be implicit with the passing of a certain date or completion of a certain service.
Sample Client Warning Form
Notifying clients of VLA departure
VLA departure may account for case closure in some circumstances. Two weeks prior to the termination of a VLA’s contract, it is the VLA’s duty to call his/her clients to inform them of his/her departure. During the call, the VLA will also be responsible to ask all pending cases whether a result was reached or not. The purpose of the call is primarily to explain to the client that the VLA is leaving but that the files remain at the organization; asking about the outcome is a side question and will hopefully not cause the stress linked to creating expectations.
Re-allocation of cases
When re-allocating the cases that belonged to the departing VLA, the Legal Services Manager/Coordinator will also allocate the cases for which the only action necessary is to register the outcome. The name of the responsible VLA will be changed in the database from the former VLA to the newly appointed VLA. If a client could not be reached before the former VLA’s departure, the new VLA will be responsible for calling the client to inform them who the new VLA is, and ask in passing if an outcome was attained.
Turnover of case outcome monitoring responsibilities
The VLAs who are responsible to monitor outcomes of clients that belonged to former VLAs will get their information either through Step 1, Step 2 or Step 3. In other words, the VLA responsible for a former case will note the outcome in the database…
- when the new VLA receives information about the outcome of the new cases during the VLA’s internship;
- when a case is closed at your organization; or,
- when the new VLA is also about to leave and calls his/her former cases. If no result was reached, the case is re-allocated to yet another VLA.