Alternative Fee Arrangement (AFA)

Benefits for lawyers

What are Ontario lawyers saying about alternative fee arrangements?

Note: Quotes are anonymous to respect privacy. Contact your director general if youd like to speak in person to an AFA lawyer.

It is a fantastic business model. It is moving towards a new way of doing business that is clear, transparent and flexible. Im fortunate to be involved in the model.

"While initially hesitant to stray from the proven path, the AFA model has proven to be an effective and practical manner in providing services to my client base. Going forward, I believe this is a model that will benefit most counsel representing Legal Aid clients."

I found the transition to an AFA seamless and without impact on my day-to-day practice, with the benefit of certainty in my hours of engagement with Legal Aid and certainty of billing and cash flow. I actually wondered how an AFA benefitted Legal Aid. I had been hesitant at first but find no concerns.

"I decided to participate in the AFA in order to streamline and simplify my LAO accounting. Having a steady monthly income is an important benefit of the AFA. Another positive aspect is the elimination of the need to seek discretion for my accounts. The AFA has allowed me to devote more time to the practice of law and less time to administrative issues. I recommend considering the AFA to anyone who has a steady LAO practice."

"The AFA appealed to me as a way to decrease the number of administrative tasks in my small practice and to have a more predictable cash flow that is not directly connected to the timing of billing. The arrangement has met my expectations. I can now prioritize my work more in terms of case deadlines and not so much based on having to seek authorizations and billing."

Why choose an alternative fee arrangement?

Benefits for lawyers

  • Simplicity. An AFA is an annual contract that takes into account the total sum of all fees, disbursements and discretion requests.

  • A simplified administrative process. You do not need to make requests for discretion. Automatic amendment authorizations are issued for certificates through Legal Aid Online, for example, travel, bail reviews, written submissions to the Refugee Board, substantive custody and access authorizations. Reporting is streamlined and LAO is working on reducing the administrative processes even further for AFA lawyers.

  • Predictable income. The predictability of having regular income from Legal Aid Ontario is a good fit for many lawyers in private practice. The monthly payments help to smooth the variability of case-by-case billing. Furthermore, with a regular stream of income, you can more easily make decisions about hiring and expanding your practice.

  • More autonomy. You determine the best way to support legal aid clients with LAO funds. We recognize that your case costs vary with the complexity of matters and that you prefer to have more autonomy with time management. Under an AFA, you decide among your legal aid files how much time to give to each particular case.

  • Flexible contract. AFA contracts are not universal, cookie-cutter documents on the contrary, you and LAO will build your individualized AFA contract together, based on the specifics of your practice. Furthermore, your AFA is flexible, with built-in features to address unanticipated adjustments if your caseload increases or decreases, or if illness or other family emergencies occur. After more than a year of experience with the AFA pilot project, our contracts are even better designed to support your practice.

  • A dedicated case manager. LAO will appoint a senior official (typically the director general for your district) as your single point of contact. This eliminates many of the multiple interactions currently necessary with LAO departments. This senior official will work with you to make the AFA arrangement mutually beneficial and successful.

Benefits for your clients

  • Efficient, timely and high quality legal services.
  • No change in legal aid services, rights or eligibility requirements.
  • No delays in proceeding due to the need for authorizations and approvals.

Benefits to LAO

  • Reduces LAO administrative time and costs.
  • Helps LAO to use funding effectively to support lawyers who are committed to legal aid clients.
  • Helps LAO to address service gaps and underserviced areas.

Who else is on an AFA? Which other firms and lawyers?

LAOs contracts with service providers are strictly confidential. However, if youd like to speak with a colleague about AFAs, ask your director general. Often they can find a colleague who is willing to speak with you privately about their experience with AFAs.

As of November 2015, the following number of lawyers/firms were enrolled in the AFA program now offered in all areas of law.

District FIRM SOLE Grand Total
Central District   4 4
Hamilton-Kitchener District 1 27 28
London District   4 4
Northeast District   2 2
Northwest District   8 8
Eastern District 3 1 4
Peel-York District   15 15
Toronto Central District 4 17 21
Windsor District   19 19
Grand Total 8 97 105


Contact your district director general to discuss AFAs and see if this option will work for you.