For refugee and immigration lawyers

Practice directions

Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) has developed practice directions to clarify practices and establish expectations regarding certain aspects of LAO-funded refugee and immigration services. A panel member who fails to abide by these directions could be subject to recoveries (fees and disbursements) and panel management consequences.

1. Filing the Basis of Claim (BOC) form and disclosure with the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) (effective June 1, 2016)

Some LAO panel members routinely use process servers to file BOC forms and other disclosure with the IRB. This results in costly and unnecessary disbursements in situations where courier or fax would be equally effective.

Beginning June 1, 2016, LAO will:

  • cease to cover disbursements for process servers to file BOC forms and disclosure
  • limit coverage for courier disbursements to a maximum of $25 to file BOC forms and disclosure

Rule 39 (d) of the Refugee Protection Division Rules (SOR/2012-256) allows for the filing of documents by fax:

(d) if the recipient has a fax number and the document is no more than 20 pages long, unless the recipient consents to receiving more than 20 pages.

The RPD has confirmed to LAO that BOCs and other documents may be filed by fax, provided they are under the 20-page limit. LAO expects panel members to take reasonable steps to avoid unnecessary public expense, including filing documents under 20 pages in length by fax with the Refugee Protection Division, unless there is a valid reason for not doing so.

Refugee lawyers with questions about this direction should speak with their panel officer.

LAO seeks to ensure that limited resources are used to the maximum benefit of clients.

2. Country conditions research (effective December 1, 2015)

As noted in LAOs refugee and immigration standards implementation guidelines, country research is an important element of quality refugee representation. Hours billed under the tariff for research must, however, reflect the actual research hours incurred.

When working on country conditions research, please:

  • keep detailed dockets of the research completed
  • docket country condition research separately from other case preparation
  • be prepared to readily produce country research notes and products (indices, country packages) to LAO for review if requested.

Lawyers who specialize in claims from the same country with similar facts and/or risk profiles are expected to derive efficiencies, including a reduced need for country conditions research and lower average case costs.

Lawyers specializing in claims from the same country with similar facts and/or risk profiles whose billing practices do not conform to this practice direction will be subject to audit.