Information for lawyers
Legal aid panels
Lawyers who represent legal aid clients must belong to the panel(s) for the type(s) of law they practice. The standards for each panel provide the minimum experience and professional development requirements that lawyers must meet. Panel standards help ensure that legal aid clients receive high-quality services.
Ongoing annual professional development is necessary to maintain panel membership.
Legal Aid Ontario’s panel standards were developed in consultation with:
- members of the refugee, criminal and family bars
- duty counsel
- lawyers practising before the Consent and Capacity Board
- lawyers' associations
- Law Society of Upper Canada
How to join a legal aid panel
Step one: Get started
Before you can do any paid work for Legal Aid Ontario, you must be accepted as a member of Legal Aid Ontario’s panel in your area(s) of law. In other words, you need to be empanelled:
- in your area of law (the refugee panel has its own separate process.)
- in the geographic area where you primarily carry on your law practice (if you practice in multiple cities, you must select one area as your home base)
In general, it takes three to six weeks in total to become empanelled (it may take longer to be accepted to the refugee panel).
To start the process, you need to meet all applicable panel standards, or meet exemption criteria. Please provide, and submit to your district office, the following documents, in person, by fax or by email:
- Complex case rate
- Consent and capacity board
- Duty counsel—court criminal, court family and FLIC
- Duty counsel—advice lawyer
- Extremely serious criminal matters
- Family and CFSA sub-panel
A completed refugee panel standards application form if you wish to provide legal aid funded refugee and immigration services (even if you are already a panel member in another area of law)
A voided cheque for your business (your name or your firm’s name must be printed on the cheque)
- A completed direct deposit authorization form from your bank
- Your HST number
- A release for information from your professional indemnity company
- A release for information from the Law Society of Upper Canada, and
- If relevant, an update of your Law Society of Upper Canada status to confirm that you are licensed to practice and a member in good standing
Read the general terms and conditions for panel lawyers.
Step two: Meet with your director general
Once all of the application documents arrive at your area’s district office, the director general may contact you to set up an informal discussion. If you wish, you can call the director general yourself to arrange this meeting. The purpose of this meeting is to get to know each other and to discuss your expectations for doing Legal Aid Ontario work. You will then get a letter from the director general that confirms:
- you have been empanelled with Legal Aid Ontario
- the panels you have been approved for
- the conditions, if any, that apply to your empanelment (if you are new to the practice of law or to a particular area of law, these conditions may include achieving prescribed standards in a set period of time, reviewing mandatory substantive law materials, and/or having an informal mentor).
The director general will forward your application package to Legal Aid Ontario’s Provincial Office for processing.
Note: Lawyers new to an area of practice may be admitted conditionally to a panel provided they agree to acquire the necessary experience within a specified time frame, and take approved continuing legal education or be mentored as required by their district area director. This conditional admission does not apply to the Extremely Serious Criminal Matters panel or the Complex Case Rate (CCR) panel.
Step three: Await your Legal Aid Ontario welcome package
You will receive, in the mail, a Legal Aid Ontario welcome package that includes:
- your Legal Aid Ontario solicitor number/vendor number
- your tier level (the level at which you can bill; if you are a new call, you will be billing at the Tier 1 level for criminal, mental health, prison law, tribunals and civil litigation)
- your user ID, password and other information about Legal Aid Online (Legal Aid Ontario’s online billing portal
- technical tips for online billing
- contact information for billing questions/concerns
- information about conditions on your empanelment tailored to your situation, such as the requirement to attend training sessions, work with a mentor, etc.
Empanelment application forms
Criminal panel forms
Family/CFSA panel forms
Refugee application forms
Consent & Capacity Board application forms
Duty Counsel panel forms
Contact the LAO Finance department, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., by phone at 416-979-2352 (Susan Howling at ext. 6487 or Julia Marinucci at ext. 6252) or by fax at 647-260-0548 if you have questions about:
- Fully completed applications that have been approved by district offices
- Tier level increases
- Maintaining vendor records (address changes, updating banking information, etc.)
- HST refunds
- Government/legal garnishment
- Solicitor electronic fund transfer (bank EFT) rejects