Legal aid panels

Duty counsel panel standards

Forms


Criminal duty counsel panel application

Family law and Family Law Information Centre duty counsel application


Questions & answers

Read the Q&A for more information about duty counsel panel standards

1. Probationary period

Every applicant for entry on a duty counsel panel shall be subject to a three-month probationary period, at the end of which the district area director or the supervisory duty counsel shall provide the applicant with performance feedback. The district area director or supervisory duty counsel shall determine whether to admit the applicant to the duty counsel panel or extend the probation for an additional three months.

Performance feedback shall cover the following areas:

  • Substantive law; and
  • Legal procedure; and
  • Client relations; and
  • Duty counsel processes, procedures and policies; and
  • Performance in court

2. Shadowing

Every applicant for entry on a duty counsel panel shall be required to shadow an experienced duty counsel for a period to be specified by the district area director or supervisory duty counsel.


3. Professional development

All duty counsel shall complete administrative/procedural training programs relating to the role of duty counsel, which shall include familiarity with the Duty Counsel Manual. These programs shall be funded and organized by LAO, taking into consideration the identified needs of each area. LAO shall pay duty counsel to attend mandatory programs.

An applicant may request of an district area director or supervisory duty counsel an exemption from the administrative/procedural training programs. A district area director or supervisory duty counsel shall have the authority to grant an exemption based on the panel member's demonstrated ability to comply with LAO's administrative/procedural requirements.

An district area director or supervisory duty counsel may conduct optional substantive law and other training programs for their duty counsel panels. LAO will not pay participants to attend optional programs. An district area director or supervisory duty counsel shall have the authority to make these substantive law sessions (either LAO courses or the equivalent CLE) mandatory without compensation for duty counsel deemed to require professional development, based on the probationary performance feedback or the annual performance feedback.


4. Performance feedback

A district area director or supervisory duty counsel shall give all duty counsel ongoing performance feedback, and shall review the performance of each duty counsel annually. An district area director or supervisory duty counsel shall not be required to meet with each individual duty counsel to discuss the annual performance assessment, unless there are specific performance issues not addressed by the ongoing feedback throughout the year. Feedback should include compliments about performance and/or may focus on areas that require improvement, indicating the supports that may be available.


5. Minimum related experience requirements for court duty counsel

The following minimum related experience is required for both admission to, and for continued standing on the named panel:


A. Criminal Court Adult and Criminal Court Youth Duty Counsel Panels

Minimum related experience for the criminal court Adult and criminal court Youth duty counsel panel shall include:

  1. the completion of a minimum of three contested judicial interim release hearings each year; and
  2. the completion of a minimum of three guilty pleas or criminal trials each year; and
  3. the completion of a minimum of three criminal sentencing hearings each year; and
  4. the completion of six hours of continuing legal education in criminal law each year.

Applicants failing to meet the minimum related experience requirements may be admitted to the panel upon undertaking to acquire the minimum experience within one year.

Notwithstanding the above, an applicant may request of a district area director or a supervisory duty counsel an exemption from the minimum related experience standard. A district area director or supervisory duty counsel shall have the authority to grant an exemption, or partial exemption, to the applicant based on the following considerations:

  1. Substantial involvement in criminal law; and/or
  2. Experience as a criminal law duty counsel.
  3. For new calls to the bar:
    1. rotation as an articled student in the criminal law field, and/or
    2. undertaking to train in criminal law as required by district area director.

B. Family Court Duty Counsel and Advice Lawyer-FLIC Panels

Minimum related experience for the family court duty counsel & Advice Lawyer-FLIC panels shall include:

  1. representation at a minimum of two family law trials or contested family law matters each year; and
  2. representation at a minimum of two Child and Family Services Act child protection hearings each year; and
  3. representation at a minimum of two Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Enforcement Act enforcement proceedings each year; and
  4. the preparation of a minimum of two family law applications & pleadings each year; and
  5. representation at a minimum of two family law motions without notice under the applicable Rules, in situations of urgency or hardship, or involving immediate danger, each year; and
  6. the completion of six hours of continuing legal education in family law each year.

Applicants failing to meet the minimum related experience requirements may be admitted to the panel upon undertaking to acquire the minimum experience within one year.

Notwithstanding the above, an applicant may request of a district area director or a supervisory duty counsel an exemption from the minimum related experience standard. A district area director or supervisory duty counsel shall have the authority to grant an exemption, or partial exemption, to the applicant based on the following considerations:

  1. substantial involvement in family law; and/or
  2. experience as a family law duty counsel; and/or
  3. with new calls to the bar:
    1. rotation as an articled student in the family law field, and/or
    2. undertaking to train in an area of family law as required by district area director.

6. Undertaking to comply

All duty counsel shall abide by the General Terms and Conditions for Panel Lawyers and undertake to comply with the specific requirements for duty counsel set out by LAO.

Consideration of local conditions by district area directors or supervisory duty counsel in applying the panel standards

The duty counsel panel standards shall apply across the province. District area directors and supervisory duty counsel may apply the standards in a flexible way if deemed necessary, in consideration of the following local conditions:

  1. a shortage of lawyers in the area willing to do duty counsel work; or
  2. the district area director or supervisory duty counsel deems it necessary to rebuild and/or refresh the duty counsel panel to meet current or future needs; or

Notwithstanding that an applicant meets the minimum requirements, a district area director or supervisory duty counsel may refuse admission to the panel if the panel is adequate to meet local demands.

A district area director or supervisory duty counsel may contact the relevant LAO Provincial Manager of the Duty Counsel Program to seek advice regarding exemptions.


Supports for duty counsel panel members

  1. LAO shall administer the supervisory duty counsel program throughout Ontario.
  2. LAO shall provide and maintain a comprehensive Duty Counsel Manual available on the LAO web site and provide research support through LAO LAW.
  3. LAO shall administer a Duty Counsel hotline through LAO LAW.