Information for lawyers

Annual billing limits

Information for Lawyers

Frequently asked questions


1. Why did Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) introduce the hardcap?

LAO introduced an annual billing limit (hardcap) to ensure service quality to clients is not compromised and taxpayers money is managed effectively.


2. Why has Legal Aid Ontario updated from an hourly annual billing limit to an annual billing limit based on dollars?

In 2010, Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) introduced block fees to simplify the billing process for criminal lawyers and reduce administration. Approximately 70% of all criminal cases are now paid by block fee. Moving to an annual billing limit based on dollars is simple and easy to understand for all areas of law.


3. What is included in the annual dollar billing limit?

The following is included in the annual dollar billing limit:

  • All hourly fees paid on a certificate (including regular tariff rate, northern rate and complex case rate)
  • All Block Fees paid
  • Certificate acknowledgement fee
  • Fees paid for Guaranteed Daily Rate (certificate and Duty Counsel)
  • Fees paid as per diem Duty Counsel including appearance fee
  • All fees paid for travel (Duty Counsel and certificate)

The following is not included in the annual dollar billing limit:

  • Disbursements
  • Travel mileage
  • Fees for Protocol Case Unit certificates
  • Area Committee Fees
  • Student and law clerk fees

4. How do I request a hardcap exemption?

You write to the Director, Lawyer Services and Payments, with a copy to the Area Director, outlining the following:

  • the number of hours and dollars requested beyond your hardcap
  • the number of times you have requested an exemption
  • the reasons for your request

The Director will review your letter, consult with the area director, and make a recommendation to the Regional Vice-President and President who will decide whether the exemption will be granted. Exemptions are granted in rare circumstances.


5. How can I avoid hitting my hardcap?

If you are close to your annual billing limit, you may want to consider at what point in time you will submit further accounts to LAO. You might also decide not to acknowledge certificates for a period of time.

In considering when to bill your accounts, remember that time limits for submitting accounts are subject to strict enforcement. All accounts must be submitted in accordance with the applicable time limits, i.e. billing deadlines.


6. What happens when I hit my hardcap?

When you hit hardcap, Legal Aid will request that you not submit new accounts billing your own work until the new fiscal, ie., after April 1. We suspend your privileges to use Legal Aid Online to submit accounts to prevent payment of amounts above the billing limit. With an undertaking from you not to bill for any dollars amounts that may be paid to you, the portal can be reopened to allow you to submit accounts for disbursements or for work by agents or employees not affected by your hard cap.

All accounts must be submitted within the billing deadlines to be considered for payment. For more information on the billing deadlines, please see the Tariff and Billing Handbook.


7. What annual dollar billing limit applies when a lawyer changes Tier Levels during the fiscal year?

The applicable annual dollar billing limit is based on a lawyers highest Tier Level in the relevant fiscal year.


8. Will lawyers who do northern rate work and complex case rate work be disadvantaged by the annual dollar billing limit?

No. Lawyers who reach the annual dollar billing limit because they provide services paid at the northern or complex case rates, can request an exemption from the annual dollar billing limit


9. Where can I find more information?