Legal Aid Ontario pilots new process to manage family law conflicts of interest
Posted on: Monday, November 5, 2012
Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is running a pilot in Oshawa, Sarnia and Barrie and through its toll-free service line to manage conflicts of interest more consistently when providing its low-income clients with family law services. Once the pilot is complete, LAO will analyze staff and stakeholder feedback, with the goal of implementing this initiative province-wide.
The need for this initiative
LAO’s mandate is to provide all eligible low-income individuals with consistently high-quality services throughout the province. As a result, two people on opposite sides of a family law matter could each qualify for, and benefit from, LAO services.
LAO’s current practices for managing conflicts of interest when they arise differ across the province. Local offices create and maintain conflict-of-interest lists, for instance, and, if a conflict of interest is identified, refer clients to another lawyer, such as a per diem duty counsel or LAO staff lawyer.
What will happen in the pilot
During the pilot, duty counsel and LAO family staff in Oshawa, Sarnia, Barrie, as well as several lawyers who provide summary legal advice through LAO’s toll-free line, will clearly tell potential clients, before providing them with legal services, that:
- they will take all reasonable steps to keep client information confidential and private
- it is possible that a different LAO lawyer – who will also take all reasonable steps to keep information confidential and private – might be helping the person on the other side(s) of their case
- there may be a conflict of interest if they and another LAO lawyer help different sides of a case, because both LAO lawyers are helping people with different interests
Clients will then be asked to sign a short client consent document – available in French and English – to show that they acknowledge that LAO may provide service to people on different sides of a matter.
LAO family duty counsel or staff will also complete a conflict check. If a conflict of interest emerges, LAO will refer clients to another service within LAO if possible, such as to another staff or per diem duty counsel, to a Family Law Service Centre, or to the Client Service Centre for summary legal advice over the phone.
For questions or further information, please contact: