Throughout the third quarter, I was invited to speak at nine different events hosted by either lawyer associations or a community legal clinic. One theme that was top of mind was looking beyond what LAO and the private bar are doing now so that we can help those who are still "left out"—either because they don't qualify for legal aid or don't know where to get legal help.
The Action Group on Access to Justice released a report back in 2016 that surveyed over 1,500 Ontarians on their views on justice and access to justice.
Forty per cent of Ontarians don't believe they have fair and equal access to the justice system. And when it comes to getting legal help? Most people try to get help from lawyers, but almost a third turn to friends or family for advice on how to make their way through the legal system.
Part of LAO's mandate is to help people get a jumpstart on their legal issue as early as possible. This could mean providing people with information about their rights and providing that information in places that they can easily access it.
I'm a firm believer in working together with a variety of social and justice workers to come up with programs that can help people to avoid the problems that have created the legal crises they find themselves in. And this remains my call to action for 2018.
President & CEO
Legal Aid Ontario
Back in June 2016, when we first announced we were developing a racialized communities strategy, we started off by talking to those who work with racialized communities to get a better sense of existing gaps and how we can work together to better provide legal services.
Our second phase, announced in July, focuses more on talking to those in low-income racialized communities–so we can hear directly from those who need our services.
Some of what we've started to hear seems obvious: for those who don't speak English or French, the biggest hurdle is learning about their rights in a language they are comfortable with.
In early 2018, our consultations will continue. Right from the start, we've offered to have interpreters available at these sessions and as we organize language-specific sessions, we hope this will help bring out an open dialogue that will enable us to think about what LAO's next steps should be.
For those of you with a largely racialized client base, we encourage you to help spread the word about these consultations. Those who are unable to attend a session in-person are always free to write down their thoughts–we have translated our consultation questions into a number of languages–and send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I'm pleased to announce that Louis Dimitracopoulos joined us in late January as our chief administrative officer with oversight of many departments including Finance, Lawyer Services & Payments and Client Account Services, IT, and Facilities. Louis has had a long career in public service. He comes to us from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care where he was the director of Policy Coordination and Intergovernmental Relations.
Jayne Mallin also joined us in February as the new vice president overseeing the Southwest Region, and will have accountability for the London, Hamilton-Kitchener and Essex, Lambton & Kent Districts as well as the specialty clinics. Jayne brings with her a wealth of experience having been both an LAO and clinic staff lawyer as well as having been the legal director at Rexdale Community Legal Clinic.
In addition, as the quarter drew to an end, we saw a couple of senior staff move on with new endeavours.
First, Charles Lafortune, our acting vice president for the Provincial Case Management Office and Special Projects decided to move on from LAO to pursue more time traveling with family and friends. Then, George MacPherson, our director general in the Eastern District, was appointed to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
This was followed by our executive lead for the Refugee and Immigration Program in the GTA, Jawad Kassab, announcing he was retiring after having been at LAO for 22 years. Jawad began his career with us by starting as a staff lawyer at the Refugee Law Office when it was first founded.
We wish them all the best and thank them for their many contributions to LAO.
Alex Robinson, Canadian Lawyer – October 13, 2017
Article on the Federal funding toward the shortfall in LAO refugee services and the reaction from refugee lawyers
Fatima Syed, Toronto Star – December 2, 2017
A profile of the duty counsel at the 1000 Finch courthouse in Toronto and how reforms in Bail law may reduce the remand population in Ontario. (English only)
Matt Galloway, CBC Metro Morning – December 7, 2017
Interview with Nia Singh about the launch of the PLUG program in Rexdale to assist for Black students facing expulsion, funded by LAO’s education grant. (English only)
Ontario's second annual Access to Justice week
– October 2017
The Hamilton Boldness Project
– October 2017
International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women
– November 2017
Prison law a focus for Legal Aid Ontario
– December 2017
Project LUCID: Environmental scan and needs assessment
– December 2017
LAO offers intake, triage and support services to people applying for legal aid, existing legal aid clients and lawyers who provide legal services on behalf of legal aid.
Call centre – Tier 1
Agents in Tier 1 of LAO’s call centre can help assess service needs and provide information about qualifying for legal aid. Their responsibilities include, but are not limited to: triage, making referrals, performing status checks and updating client profiles.
Call centre – Tier 2
Tier 2 agents conduct an in-depth analysis of a client’s legal needs, financial situation and case details to determine eligibility for legal aid services. Their responsibilities include, but are not limited to: processing applications, issuing certificates, making referrals, and providing enhanced public legal information.
Call centre – In-custody
LAO also offers a service dedicated to helping people who are incarcerated across the province. Staff take calls directly from inmates to determine legal aid eligibility, process applications and issue certificates as well as conduct status checks on submitted applications.
Call centre – Lawyers
Lawyers who do legal aid work can contact the call centre for information, including but not limited to: tariff, billing, account status and technical support. This group serves as a first point of contact for most lawyers’ enquiries.
|Persons assisted for intake, triage and support||2015/16||2016/17||2017/18|
|Phone: Tier 1||72,204||74,088||74,118||68,891||78,089||75,588||69,813||63,187|
|Phone: Tier 2||27,428||28,906||29,324||26,108||30,167||26,587||26,336||24,235|
|Phone: In-custody clients||8,244||7,180||8,236||7,419||8,992||8,773||8,919||7,693|
|Phone: Lawyer Service Centre||12,679||11,175||11,000||10,306||11,928||11,132||11,403||11,942|
Duty counsel are LAO staff and per diem lawyers in courthouses. They can give immediate legal assistance to low-income people who would otherwise be unrepresented and unassisted.
|Persons assisted by duty counsel - criminal law||2015/16||2016/17||2017/18|
|Per Diem DC||36,618||30,744||37,383||32,748||35,215||30,116||39,126||34,668|
|Persons assisted by duty counsel - family law||2015/16||2016/17||2017/18|
|Per Diem DC||22,669||20,284||18,864||17,711||20,527||15,118||19,148||17,369|
Legal aid applicants who are financially eligible, and who are facing a serious legal matter covered by LAO, may be issued a certificate to cover the cost of a private practice lawyer.
A certificate is a voucher that a low-income person can take to one of more than 3,600 private practice lawyers across the province who accept legal aid clients. A certificate guarantees the lawyer payment for a certain number of hours if they accept the case.
|Certificates issued by area of law||2015/16||2016/17||2017/18|
|Immigration and Refugee Law||2,869||2,753||3,178||3,276||3,451||3,259||3,306||3,493|
|Total Certificates Issued||29,585||29,587||28,500||26,417||27,605||26,293||26,191||24,938|
 Other is a category that represents all other legal matters covered by LAO certificates, such as: CCB matters, prison law matters and matters before civil tribunal.
|Key Performance Indicator (KPI) name||Measurement frequency||Last measured||Target||Previous year (2016/17)||Current value|
|% of same day decisions for certificates||Quarterly||Q3 2017/18||80%||75.6%||79.2%|
|% of area office appeals heard within 3 days||Quarterly||Q3 2017/18||80%||51.6%||50.9%|
|Acceptance rate for certificate applications||Quarterly||Q3 2017/18||87%||87.7%||83.4%|
|% of calls answered within 3 minutes (L1)||Quarterly||Q3 2017/18||80%||83.0%||41.0%|
|% of calls answered within 3 minutes (LSC)||Quarterly||Q3 2017/18||80%||69.0%||85.0%|
|% of calls answered within 3 minutes (Worklist)||Quarterly||Q3 2017/18||80%||88.0%||60.0%|
|% of calls answered within 20 minutes (L2)||Quarterly||Q3 2017/18||80%||79.0%||46.0%|
|Overall client satisfaction - % of positive responses (in-person)||Annual||Q3 2016/17||80%||93.0%||93.0%|
|Number of Ontarians financially eligible for LAO's services||Annual||Q1 2017/18||Maintain||1,540,000||1,540,000|
|Overall lawyer satisfaction - % of positive responses||Annual||Q3 2017/18||60%||56.0%||53.0%|
|Revenue||Apr. 1, 2016 - Dec. 31, 2016 ($M)||Apr. 1, 2017 - Dec. 31, 2017 ($M)|
|Core Business Expenses|
|Client Service Offices||$16.7M||$15.0M|
|Duty Counsel Program||$40.9M||$39.8M|
|Total Core Business Expenses||$295.6M||$293.0M|
|Service Provider Support||$4.9M||$4.6M|
|Total Operating Expenses||$60.2M||$54.6M|
|Surplus / (deficit) before other corporate expenditures / savings||($23.3M)||$7.8M|
Totals may not add due to rounding