Getting legal help
Making a complaint
If you have a complaint, you should contact LAO’s Complaints Department.
You can speak to us, send us a fax or an email or you can fill out a LAO complaint form. The Complaints Department can help you fill in this form.
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- Provide us with a clear idea of the problem you have experienced and the solution you want
- Give us all the relevant information you have (or know about) up front
- Tell us new facts as they arise
- Let us know if you no longer want our help
- Cooperate with us
- Treat us with respect
For full details, please review the complaints policy [PDF].
Who can complain?
LAO will consider all complaints, whether you speak with us directly or put it in writing, and whether you tell us who you are or want to stay anonymous. We are ready to help with complaints from:
- current LAO clients
- former LAO clients
- the Ontario Office of the Ombudsman (the Complaints Department is the liaison between LAO and this office)
- anyone affected by services from a community legal clinic, a Student Legal Aid Services Society or any other LAO organization
- People who have been refused a service (such as legal aid assistance) or have an issue with a contribution agreement must first complete the appeals process (this is a requirement of the Legal Aid Services Act).
- LAO is not authorized to handle certain complaints alone, such as human rights issues and some employment concerns. We will tell you if we are not able to address your concerns.
The LAO Complaints Department will:
- Record your complaint and send you an acknowledgement letter within five days of receiving your call or letter. Should your complaint be resolved within that time, this acknowledgement letter will say so.
- Send you a status letter within 30 days if your issue has not yet been resolved.
- Handle all complaints professionally, efficiently and fairly.
- Keep you informed of our progress.
- Give you reasons for our decisions.
- Treat you with respect.
- Acknowledge all complaints within the timeframes specified by the complaints policy.
- Determine whether the complaint is within its jurisdiction (in accordance with the complaints policy) and refer you to another office/department for resolution if it is not.
The complaints process
Stage I: Attempt to resolve the complaint in your area of the province
The Complaints Department will refer you to the LAO organization in your area responsible for your issue. This could be your community legal clinic, your Student Legal Aid Society (SLASS), your local district office, or the LAO provincial department.
Stage II: Ask LAO’s Complaints Department to help you resolve the complaint
You can ask the Complaints Department to review the resolution when:
- you are unhappy with the clinic board’s or SLASS’s final decision
- you are unhappy with the resolution the district office or provincial department has provided
Stage III: Contact LAO’s General Counsel’s office
If you are unhappy with the Stage II resolution, you can request that LAO’s General Counsel’s office review the complaint.
The General Counsel is the most senior lawyer at LAO. His or her office reviews Stage I and Stage II resolutions and collects additional information, if necessary, then provides you with a written resolution.
The decision of the General Counsel’s office is final. There is no appeal or further review.
Information the Complaints Department may send you
Upon request, the Complaints Department will provide you with:
- Written communications about your complaint between the Complaints Department and you.
- Written communications about the complaint between the Complaints Department and the subject of the complaint.
- Written responses to the complaint provided to the Complaints Department from the subject of the complaint.
- Written responses to the complaint provided to the Complaints Department from the supervisor or manager of the subject of the complaint.
There are two significant exceptions to the above. LAO does not provide:
- Information about legal aid applicants or their applications if a complaint is made.
- Confidential information protected by the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.