Fact sheets

Managing criminal matters

In addition to standard tariff accounts, Legal Aid Ontario offers three main programs for lawyers dealing with criminal matters the big case management program, complex case rate policy and block fee accounts.

Fast facts

  • Legal Aid Ontario issued 489 certificates for the big case management program between April 2011 and March 2012.
  • 54 per cent of big case management cases are homicides, followed by sexual assault, narcotics, robbery and weapons charges
  • Big cases comprise about two per cent of criminal certificates
  • Big cases account for about 25 per cent of criminal certificate costs. The average cost of a big case is $24,700 about 18 times the average cost ($1,391) of a LAO case
  • Big cases typically last three to four years.
  • The big case management program has 650 active big cases at any given time; it manages 1,500 certificates annually.

Big Case Management program

Legal Aid Ontarios Big Case Management program sets individual budgets and budget limits, rather than relying on LAOs standard tariff system, for criminal cases expected to cost more than $20,000. These are the most costly and complex criminal trial defenses that Legal Aid Ontario funds.

It is designed to help LAO work with lawyers to consider each big case, provide appropriate resources to plan and deliver a high-quality defence strategy, tailor a budget appropriate to the case, and monitor costs.

LAO follows legislated guidelines under the BCM program for:

  • any case where the total fees and disbursements are anticipated to exceed $20,000
  • murder cases (first or second degree murder charge) where the total fees and disbursements are anticipated to exceed $30,000
  • any case with multiple accused where the collective fees and disbursements are anticipated to exceed $50,000

To participate in the big case management program, lawyers must notify their district area director if they expect a case is likely to exceed $20,000, or think a preliminary hearing is likely to take two weeks or more.

An LAO Exceptions Committee reviews big case management cases expected to cost more than $75,000. Committee members are LAO staff and highly respected private bar lawyers with expertise in conducting large cases.

Get more information on Big Case Management, including information on when to apply, how to apply, the application process, guidelines, appeals and billing tips.

Complex Case Rate

Qualified criminal panel lawyers working on complex criminal cases that have been accepted into the big case management program may be eligible for a higher rate of compensation under LAOs Complex Case Rate policy. All murder cases that have been admitted into the big case management program, for instance, are eligible for the complex case rate if the defence lawyer has been admitted to the Complex Case Rate panel.

LAO developed the Complex Case Rate policy in consultation with the Criminal Lawyers Association. Its purpose is to help provide clients with high quality representation and support justice system efficiencies. To receive this type of funding:

Get more information on the complex case rate policy.

Block fee program

This program pays for services that lead to specific client case outcomes guilty plea, stay/withdrawal on a number of common criminal charges. It compensates lawyers through block fees fixed fees or rates for such charges. These fixed fees replace the hourly tariff system on all block fee-eligible charges for certificates issued as of May 2011.

The benefits of the block fee program include:

  • less administration,
  • no need for detailed dockets
  • more financial certainty
  • LAO matches accounts for payment within 21 days.

Get more information on block fees.

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Managing criminal matters
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For more information on this topic contact media@lao.on.ca