Alternative Fee Arrangement (AFA)
Questions & answers
How does LAO determine who is eligible for an AFA?
Speak with your director general to determine if your practice is suitable for an AFA. Generally, we are looking for lawyers/firms who have a history with LAO and a reputation for quality work. As we continue to grow the AFA pilot program, we are now looking to consider those with less history but who have established a good working relationship with LAO.
If I sign an AFA, will you direct clients to me?
No. Itís still up to you to get your own clients and legal aid clients have to qualify under our criteria.
If I sign an AFA, am I guaranteed duty counsel (DC) hours?
If your AFA contract includes DC hours, then we create a target of a certain number of DC hours for you to achieve. Since thatís the target weíve set, you will be given the opportunity to reach those hours. LAO works with each lawyer/law firm to ensure enough hours are offered so that you can meet your target.
How does LAO determine the monthly payment amount?
In the initial stages of the pilot project, we based the AFA monthly payment amount on a lawyerís (or firmís) historical legal aid client volume - typically the last three to four years billed to LAO. In many instances, we found a noticeable consistency over a number of years.
What if I donít have a long history with LAO?
With the pilotís expansion, in situations where thereís not as much history, we are using averages for your area of law and geographic location in addition to discussions with you on what you believe is realistic, given the specifics of your practice and your planned directions. The record of an established good working relationship with LAO is also considered.
What about disbursements on an AFA?
The contract payment includes typical disbursements. Invoices for disbursements do not need to be submitted, but we ask that you keep them on file. If for some reason there is an extraordinary high-cost disbursement which significantly departs from your historical costs, contact your contract manager or director general to discuss. Your contract manager may approve, on a case-by-case basis, instances where a separate payment may be made.
What are the requirements at the quarterly meetings?
We prepare the status report on your target and actuals and provide this to you. Our discussion depends on the situation and your needs. If it appears you are on track with the estimates, then unless you have questions or issues, it usually proceeds fairly quickly. We spend whatever time you need to answer questions and provide guidance on any issues you may be having. The quarterly meetings can be over the phone or in-person.
What if I donít meet the targets as set out in the contract?
Thereís a built-in mechanism through a quarterly review, so you and your contract manager/director general evaluate this together, every three months. We track everything closely and provide you with that information. Together we decide if we need to adjust the targets and monthly payments going forward. In the past, weíve altered targets partly through the contract, sometimes even twice within a year, if need be. We discuss it with you, we agree on a new number and it is a dialogue between you and your contract manager/director general.
What about cases that go on beyond the length of the contract?
We track ongoing cases on a longer-term basis, and often subsequent AFA contract renewals are more than one year. We know that at any given time you may be, for example, three or so certificates under, but the next quarter you may be three over. We understand that in a law practice, you canít control who comes through the door and the courtís timing as a case progresses. We try to adapt the contract to fit the characteristics of your particular practice and area of law. If you decide not to renew, there is a process in place to extricate those certificates from the AFA stream.
Does the AFA payment go into my trust account?
LAO will be making changes to the AFA program to better align the program to LSUC requirements as a result of discussions with the Law Society. Over an 18 month period beginning April, 2016, LAO will be phasing in the remittance of AFA payments into a trust account instead of a general account. Once this occurs, the process will be simple and you will be able to move funds from the trust account to the general account without delay.