Audit and Compliance Unit (ACU)

Guiding principles

ACU appreciates that the volume of work done by panel members makes some billing errors unavoidable. As such, we make every effort to inform lawyers of proper billing practices.

Our team conducts billing audits in a professional, impartial and objective manner. Audit findings and conclusions are based on documented, empirical evidence, free from bias and assumptions.

Lawyers shall retain detailed records to prove and justify all items billed in accounts for at least six years after the end of the year in which the final account is submitted. Record maintenance requirements can be found in the General Terms and Conditions for Panel Lawyers and Ontario Regulation 106/99.

When conducting audits, ACU applies rules outlined in the Tariff and Billing Handbook, the Disbursements Handbook and other LAO publications, including the Better Billing Bulletin.

If your account(s) is/are selected for audit, we will contact you if we require specific documentation or additional information. In circumstances where ACU has not been able to verify a billing, we will advise you in writing, describing the potential error and/or request additional documentation/explanation.

Communication to and from ACU must be via the Legal Aid Online portal to ensure information and communication between LAO and panel members is accessible and properly tracked.

ACU only communicates with acknowledging lawyers when an account is audited. If an agent was used to provide services to the client, it is still the responsibility of the acknowledging lawyer to provide the information, and communicate with ACU during the audit. If necessary, funds will be recovered from acknowledging lawyers. It is the responsibility of acknowledging lawyers to deal with third parties.

Once an audit begins, requests for billing adjustments by a lawyer will not be considered (e.g. discretionary requests for additional payment or backdate certificates). More information on discretionary requests and backdating of certificates can be found in the Tariff and Billing Handbook.

We are unable to accept revised dockets once an audit has begun. Dockets submitted at time of billing should be accurate and properly reflect services provided to the client. If a particular service was not initially billed for, no adjustment can be made for that service once the audit has started. Should you be entitled to bill for additional services, we will notify you so that you may adjust your billing practices in the future.

In general, we may select for audit accounts that have been paid within the last three years; however, those paid up to six years prior may also be audited.

ACU utilizes a risk assessment process to identify potential billing errors. The process uses a number of inputs, including comparison of third-party data against lawyers' online billings.