LAO Update: Winter 2018 Edition

This report, covering October to December 2018, provides an update on Legal Aid Ontario's latest initiatives

Message from the CEO

Release of LAO's 2019‑2024 strategic plan

One of my priorities when I became CEO was to develop a new five‑year strategic plan.

At the beginning of January, we released that plan, which will guide the delivery and development of LAO's programs and services.

The five goals of the strategic plan are:

We appreciated hearing from everyone who took the time to participate in the process.

If you haven't had a chance to read it, I encourage you to do so.

Auditor general report

As some of you may be aware, LAO was one of several agencies selected by the auditor general of Ontario for a value‑for‑money audit in 2018.

The auditor general's report offered constructive feedback and practical recommendations for LAO to implement. The areas of improvement that were identified touched on:

On behalf of LAO, I would like to thank the auditor general and her team for their comprehensive review. I would also like to thank all the LAO staff who assisted the auditor general and her team during the many months—close to a year—of providing unfettered access to materials and information to the audit team.

In the coming weeks and months, we intend to work with the appropriate justice sector partners to implement the recommendations.

As always, I will keep everyone up to date with more information as it becomes available.


David Field
President & CEO
Legal Aid Ontario

Spotlight on: Legal Aid Ontario Client Portal

LAO's client portal launched Dec. 3, 2018—giving clients convenient access to information and services.

Essential tasks can now be completed online, in either English or French, including:

Information entered using the portal transfers directly to LAO's client database, eliminating the manual processing previously required, and making it possible for lawyers to start work for their clients sooner.

The portal also reduces the need for mail delivery, resulting in faster service, less paper, and further cost savings for clients and LAO.

As of Jan. 17, 2019 nearly 9,500 clients have signed up to use the portal.

An estimated 85% of clients have chosen the client portal as their preferred way to receive communication from LAO and to submit consent and declaration agreements.

New clients are informed of the portal when they apply for legal aid, while existing clients can register by contacting LAO's call centre at 1‑800‑668‑8258 to get a PIN and user instructions.

LAO's client portal is the centrepiece of our digital strategy. In the future, existing and potentially new clients will be able to apply for legal aid online as well as access services and information.


Senior counsel program 2017/18 annual report

Highlights from 2017/18 for the senior counsel program include the following:

To find out more, please visit the reports section of our website.

2018/19 to 2020/21 business plan

LAO released its 2018/19 to 2020/21 business plan. The business plan addresses key priorities including:

  1. delivering on provincial investment in financial eligibility
  2. enhancing existing services
  3. enhancing LAO's workplace to increase engagement, inclusion, diversity and workforce agility

To find out more, visit the reports section of our website.

Billing tips

The November issue of our Better Billing Bulletin highlighted new tips and reminders for lawyers working with LAO. It also included a video showing how to submit a civil account.

Legal Aid Ontario in Ottawa has moved

As of November 26, 2018, our Ottawa district office is located at 275 Slater Street, Suite 1101.

2018 LAO panel lawyer satisfaction survey

LAO's annual Lawyer Satisfaction Survey asks private bar lawyers to provide feedback on their satisfaction with services provided to panel lawyers.

We use this information to measure lawyer satisfaction with different areas of service and identify areas for improvement.

Approximately 700 responses were received during the survey period from Oct. 17 to Nov. 7, 2018. This represents a response rate of approximately 19%.

At the time that this quarterly report was being produced, the survey responses were still being analyzed. In the coming months, LAO will communicate the results of the survey along with the measures that will be implemented in order to meaningfully respond to the feedback received.

Select media mentions

How new federal legislation could hurt law students—and the people who rely on their services

Mary Baxter,, November 26, 2018
An article on Bill C‑75 and its potential impact on the student legal aid services societies in Ontario

Improving Legal Aid and Access to Justice

The Agenda with Steve Paikin, TVO, December 12, 2018
Panel discussion on improving access to justice and legal aid's role. LAO vice‑president, strategy and public affairs, David McKillop, was interviewed along with Avvy Go from the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, Julie Mathews from Community Legal Education Ontario, Suzanne Johnson from Community & Legal Aid Services Programme, and John Callaghan from the Law Society of Ontario.

Client services

Intake, triage and support services

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 Ontario.

Line chart: data available in the table below
Persons assisted for intake, triage and support 2016/17 2017/18 2018/19
Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3
Phone: Tier 1 78,089 75,588 69,813 63,187 76,566 70,156 73,498 68,281
Phone: Tier 2 30,167 26,587 26,336 24,235 23,152 26,614 29,117 27,254
Phone: In-custody clients 8,992 8,773 8,919 7,693 7,437 8,194 9,066 8,462
Phone: Lawyer Service Centre 11,928 11,132 11,403 11,942 12,061 11,571 11,106 10,914

Duty counsel services

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.

Criminal law services

Line chart: data available in the table below
Persons assisted by duty counsel - criminal law 2016/17 2017/18 2018/19
Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3
Per Diem DC 35,215 30,116 39,126 34,668 40,806 33,440 38,798 36,967
Staff DC 99,422 93,836 84,437 84,900 96,554 77,985 81,874 93,499
Total 134,637 123,952 123,563 119,568 137,360 111,425 120,672 130,466

Family law services

Line chart: data available in the table below
Persons assisted by duty counsel - family law 2016/17 2017/18 2018/19
Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3
Per Diem DC 20,527 15,118 19,148 17,369 20,866 17,278 17,733 16,765
Staff DC 19,068 15,096 14,684 15,836 21,026 14,400 15,502 17,805
Total 39,595 30,214 33,832 33,205 41,892 31,678 33,235 34,570

Representation by a private practice lawyer

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.

Line chart: data available in the table below
Certificates issued by area of law 2016/17 2017/18 2018/19
Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3
Criminal law 15,386 14,520 14,492 13,714 14,053 14,953 14,506 15,020
Family law 7,452 7,200 7,028 6,409 6,411 7,473 7,398 6,945
Immigration and refugee law 3,451 3,259 3,306 3,493 3,628 3,968 4,123 4,186
Other[1] 1,316 1,314 1,365 1,322 1,359 1,400 1,421 1,341
Total certificates issued 27,605 26,293 26,191 24,938 25,451 27,794 27,448 27,492

[1] 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 tribunals.

Performance measures

Key Performance Indicator (KPI) name Measurement frequency Last measured Target Previous year (2017/18) Current value
% of same day decisions for certificates Quarterly Q3 2018/19 80.0% 76.2% 83.3%
% of area office appeals heard within 3 days Quarterly Q3 2018/19 80.0% 51.3% 68.2%
Acceptance rate for certificate applications Quarterly Q3 2018/19 87.0% 86.8% 79.1%
% of calls answered within 3 minutes (L1) Quarterly Q3 2018/19 80.0% 46.0% 74.0%
% of calls answered within 3 minutes (LSC) Quarterly Q3 2018/19 80.0% 77.0% 83.0%
% of calls answered within 3 minutes (In‑custody) Quarterly Q3 2018/19 80.0% 64.0% 67.0%
% of calls answered within 20 minutes (L2) Quarterly Q3 2018/19 80.0% 50.0% 72.0%
Overall client satisfaction – % of positive responses (email) Annual Q4 2017/18 80.0% 77.0% 77.0%
Number of Ontarians financially eligible for LAO's services Annual Q1 2018/19 Maintain 1,540,000 1,690,000
Overall lawyer satisfaction – % of positive responses Annual Q3 2018/19 60.0% 53.0% 52.0%

Statement of operations

Revenue Apr. 1, 2017 - Dec. 31, 2017 ($M) Apr. 1, 2018 - Dec. 31, 2018 ($M)
Government funding $313.9M $330.5M
Law Foundation $30.9M $54.3M
Other revenue $10.7M $9.1M
Total revenue $355.5M $393.9M
Core business expenses
Certificate costs $174.3M $166.1M
Client service offices $15.0M $14.4M
Clinic program $62.3M $73.5M
Duty counsel program $39.8M $42.2M
Service innovation $1.7M $1.8M
Total core business expenses $293.0M $298.1M
Operating expenses
Service provider support $4.6M $4.9M
Administrative expenses $25.5M $27.0M
Other expenditures $5.7M $5.0M
Program support $18.9M $19.4M
Total operating expenses $54.6M $56.2M
Total expenditures $347.7M $354.3M
Surplus / (deficit) before other corporate expenditures / savings $7.8M $39.5M*

* LAO has a forecasted operating surplus. The government has indicated that it will retain $40M of that forecasted operating surplus, leaving the forecasted operating surplus at $8.3M at year‑end.

Due to rounding, the numbers may not add up precisely to the totals provided.