LAO Newsroom

Responses to recent media enquiries

LAO Newsroom

Letter to the editor regarding 'Toronto lawyers less likely to take legal aid cases'

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The following letter to the editor was sent with regards to the article ‘Toronto lawyers less likely to take legal aid cases’ in Tuesday's Toronto Star.

On behalf of Legal Aid Ontario (LAO), I would like to clarify issues raised in the article ‘Toronto lawyers less likely to take legal aid cases’ that appeared in the Toronto Star on November 22, 2011.

LAO recognizes the valuable role private lawyers fill in the delivery of legal aid services in Ontario. Our organization maintains a healthy roster of more than 4700 private lawyers across the province who provide services to our clients clients. This includes close to 2500 in the Greater Toronto Area.

Annually, LAO issues more than 100,000 certificates to clients, with serious legal issues, which they can use to retain the services of a lawyer. More than 95 per cent of certificates issued are acknowledged across the province by private lawyers who represent these clients.

Since 2008, LAO has been engaged in a rigorous internal modernization process, to streamline administration, improve access to services for clients, and provide greater value for taxpayers. Some of the results we have achieved so far include:

  • Establishing 56 new courthouse offices that provide frontline legal aid service for clients – to date more than 60,000 clients have been served at a courthouse location.
  • Created a toll free call centre that provides low-income people with easy access to legal aid services, in more than 200 languages over the phone, including summary legal advice by a lawyer. LAO’s call centre responds to more than 1300 calls a day.
  • Established 6 new Family Services Centre in North York, Toronto, Brampton, Newmarket, Sarnia, and Chatham. Lawyers and support staff working in the centers provide a range of family law services including document preparation, referrals for other services and legal advice.
  • LAO introduced a new regional model consisting of 9 districts offices to replace 51 administrative offices.
  • Simplified our application process making it simpler and faster for clients to apply – 88 percent of legal aid applicants now receive a same day decision.

Legal Aid Ontario, together with the Law Society of Upper Canada, and Pro Bono Law Ontario commissioned the report ‘Geography of Civil Needs’ to identify and quantify the civil legal needs experienced by low and middle-income Ontarians. The results of the report will provide a baseline of reliable data about civil legal needs that will inform LAO’s future planning and priorities.

Kristian Justesen
Director of Communications
Legal Aid Ontario