Publications & Resources
A Discussion Paper on Addressing Clinic Administrative Costs
Last updated: Wednesday, May 5, 2010
A list of questions and answers regarding the paper
Introduction / Purpose
The goal of this paper is to identify improvements to the administration of clinic law that will save money while improving client service. We want to reduce overhead costs like rent, eliminate unnecessary time spent on administration, and create capacity to increase access to justice.
LAO, like most other organizations, is working to reduce the amount it spends on administration and focus more resources on service. Governments, hospitals, charities, service organizations, for-profit and not-for-profit agencies alike are all working to reduce overhead and administration costs.
Building on the lessons LAO has learned from its own experiences and the experiences of others, we will work with the clinics to improve how poverty law services are administered in Ontario so that we can focus on service and improve sustainability.
LAO is leading by example
Since 2007, LAO has leveraged technology, created new services, eliminated unnecessary costs and streamlined administration. By transforming our service delivery models, we are unlocking $20 million that we used to spend each year on administration. This represents approximately 5% of LAO’s total budget.
- LAO will save $16.5 million per year by leveraging technology to improve intake and offer new services to clients and by moving its offices into courthouses across Ontario
- LAO is saving $900,000 per year by moving its provincial head office to an open concept environment
- LAO is saving approximately $3 million through provincial office administrative savings
These are only some of the ways that LAO is improving how it administers legal aid. Unlocking resources that were previously tied up in administration and redirecting some of those resources to client service has allowed us to improve service and offer a wider spectrum of services:
- Using LAO’s toll-free number, clients can now apply for legal aid and receive information and summary legal advice in 120 languages through simultaneous translation. Just over 24,000 people accessed these services between January 1 and April 29, 2010. In February and March 2010, almost 100 people accessed summary legal advice over the phone.
- LAO has streamlined administration and reduced the time required to complete an application for legal aid by 62%. Clients can now focus more of their energy on resolving their legal matters instead of navigating administrative processes.
- 71% of clients now receive a same-day decision about their legal aid application. (In 2008, only 53% of clients received a same-day decision.)
- Clients can apply for legal aid at the courthouse instead of having to travel to a separate location.
- LAO is piloting a simplified eligibility test that will further streamline the application process.
- Since the re-launch of LAO’s improved website on November 29, 2009, there have been more than 280,000 visits to the website.
- LAO is offering alternative dispute resolution and public access computers to family law clients to ensure early access to the tools needed to appropriately resolve family law matters.
LAO is following a broader trend
LAO’s transformation emphasizes service and maximizes the impact that our funding dollars have on our clients and our communities. LAO is following a path that many other non-profit and public service organizations are on. Service organizations across Ontario and elsewhere are looking at new ways to administer and deliver programs that emphasize service and sustainability instead of overhead and administration.
Some of the ideas that we explore in the paper include:
- Coordinating regionally
- Sharing space
- Sharing services or outsourcing non-core services like human resources
- New models and ways of partnering
- Leveraging technology
- Improving knowledge management
- Offering holistic services
We can improve how we administer poverty law services
Our efforts recognize that the legal needs of low-income Ontarians are different than those of the middle or upper class.
New investments in poverty law services have been used to keep up with inflation, to pay for increases in salaries and overhead, and to fund new clinics and new staff. These investments have not led to substantial increases in the number of services that are offered to low-income Ontarians. Between 1999 and 2009, LAO increased clinic funding by 57%. Adjusted for inflation, this represents a 30% increase. Between 1999 and 2009 the number of funded positions increased by 24%, but the number of assists went up by only 12%
LAO’s experience with other service delivery models demonstrates that it is possible to provide more services within existing budgets when organizations are willing to evolve and improve.
Areas for Improvement
- If clinics reduced the rentable space per staff person to comply with OPS standards, $2.2 million in savings would be realized.
- If clinics reduced the time and money spent on administration to match LAO, $3.5 million in savings would be realized.
We believe that we can improve poverty law services in this region. We want to increase the proportion of funding that is spent on service and decrease the proportion of funding that is spent on administration. There are many benefits to generating administrative savings, including reduced costs, increased capacity, and better service. For example, unlocking $1 million from administration could ultimately create the capacity to deliver more than 2000 new assists.
In this paper, we also discuss improvements and savings relating to audit and bookkeeping and vacation and lieu time, as well as service improvements that could be made by maximizing the effectiveness of websites.
The current community clinic system has many strengths. As the primary funder of poverty law services in Ontario, LAO is proud of the many achievements of the clinics.
LAO wants to build on its recent experience improving services, streamlining administration, eliminating unnecessary costs and increasing capacity in other service delivery models. To that end, this paper asks questions about how we administer poverty law services to find ways to unlock resources and increase capacity.
LAO is not asking these questions simply to cut costs. While LAO, like other public sector agencies, is facing a time of considerable restraint, we are not interested in under-investing in infrastructure and reducing the impact clinics have on their clients and their communities. To the contrary, we want to maximize the impact of clinic law funding by emphasizing service and sustainability. We want to build on our successes and create a better legal aid system for Ontario.
A Discussion Paper on Addressing Clinic Administrative Costs
Read the entire discussion paper here
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on the Clinic Consultation Paper
What are our goals?
LAO wants to maximize the impact of poverty law funding in Ontario. We want to reduce clinic overhead costs, increase capacity and build on our successes to create a better legal aid system for Ontario.
LAO wants to work with clinics to identify improvements to the administration of clinic law. Our goal is to maximize the impact that our funding dollars have on our clients and our communities. We want to help find innovative ways to unlock resources, improve long-term sustainability and increase access to justice for low-income Ontarians.
Why are we doing this?
Service organizations across Ontario and elsewhere are looking at new ways to administer and deliver programs that emphasize service and sustainability instead of overhead and administration. As part of this trend, LAO has taken steps to transform its own operations, improving front-line service, increasing accountability and building a more sustainable legal aid system. Moving forward, LAO needs to ensure that the dollars spent on legal aid services, including clinic law services, provide optimal value for money.
LAO believes that an improved poverty law system can accomplish the following:
- Greater capacity to deliver high quality client services
- Less money spent on administration and overhead
- More accountability to our clients, our communities, our funders and taxpayers
- Increased access to justice and a more sustainable legal aid system
How will it be accomplished?
The clinic consultation paper will serve as a starting point for regional/district and specialty clinic discussions. The goal of the clinic consultation paper is to identify improvements to the administration of clinic law that will save money while improving client service. We want to reduce overhead costs like rent, eliminate unnecessary time spent on administration, and create capacity to increase access to justice. The paper outlines some ideas about building more sustainable poverty law services. We will discuss some of the steps LAO has taken to transform other service delivery models, some of the approaches that are being taken by other service organizations, and some of the good work that has already been done by clinics.
Who will be involved in the consultation?
LAO wants to start a conversation about improvements that can be made at a local and regional level and with specialty clinics. LAO’s regional teams, along with representatives from its Central Programming & Innovation division, will meet with clinic representatives and stakeholders across the province to identify possible administrative improvements and develop a plan to improve efficiencies. LAO understands that clinics serve unique communities, and aims to build a stronger system that is good for clients and good for communities.
When will the consultations take place?
LAO aims to initiate discussions with clinics about some of the ideas raised in this paper in May or June. We hope that our first meeting will mark the beginning of a consultation process with the districts/regions and specialty clinics that will help us achieve the goal set out in the paper, namely, to identify improvements to the administration of clinic law that will save money and improve client service. We will work with clinics to develop a plan to maximize the impact of poverty law funding in each district and region and with the specialty clinics.
Is LAO planning to reduce its budget for clinics?
Beginning in 2010-11, LAO will provide additional funds to assist clinics in providing services in multiple languages and explore new and efficient ways of providing services.
LAO has committed to providing $1million to expand interpretation and translation services for clinic clients. This additional funding could provide translation services for up to 6,000 additional clients.
LAO has also committed to providing $2.25 million over three years for a clinic Innovation Fund that will support one-time clinic initiatives, projects or studies to enhance access to justice for racialized and immigrant communities; expand clinic services in rural and remote communities through a variety of means, including the use of technology; and introducing more efficient structures through which to offer clinic law services.