LAO Update: Fall 2017 Edition

Published: December 31, 2017

Message from the CEO

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.



David Field
President & CEO
Legal Aid Ontario

Spotlight: Racialized Communities Strategy Consultation

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

Hello and goodbye

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.

Projects and announcements from the last quarter

Legal Aid Ontario sets dates for racialized communities strategy meetings
Congratulations to Legal Aid Ontario’ (Justice) George MacPherson, appointed to Ontario Superior Court
Submit your certificate-related documents through the certificate tab of Legal Aid Online for faster service
LAO reintroducing merit consideration for Consent and Capacity Board appeals
LAO and MAG develop resources for family law cases subject to the Hague Service Convention
Effective December 10, 2017: Changes to charges heard separately certificate issuing process

Selected media

Ottawa provides $7.1 million for LAO refugee services
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
How bail court is being reformed for the first time in decades
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)
Helping black students succeed
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)


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.

  • 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.

Click here to download image.
Persons assisted for intake, triage and support 2015/16 2016/17 2017/18
Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3
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 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

Click here to download image.
Persons assisted by duty counsel – criminal law 2015/16 2016/17 2017/18
Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3
Per Diem DC 36,618 30,744 37,383 32,748 35,215 30,116 39,126 34,668
Staff DC 78,968 69,831 78,976 72,275 99,422 93,836 84,437 84,900
Total 115,586 100,575 116,359 105,023 134,637 123,952 123,563 119,568

Family law services

Click here to download image.
Persons assisted by duty counsel – family law 2015/16 2016/17 2017/18
Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3
Per Diem DC 22,669 20,284 18,864 17,711 20,527 15,118 19,148 17,369
Staff DC 17,674 13,416 16,248 17,858 19,068 15,096 14,684 15,836
Total 40,343 33,700 35,112 35,569 39,595 30,214 33,832 33,205

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.

Click here to download image.
Certificates issued by area of law 2015/16 2016/17 2017/18
Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3
Criminal Law 17,098 16,982 16,415 15,065 15,386 14,520 14,492 13,714
Family Law 8,274 8,483 7,535 6,841 7,452 7,200 7,028 6,409
Immigration and Refugee Law 2,869 2,753 3,178 3,276 3,451 3,259 3,306 3,493
Other[1] 1,344 1,369 1,372 1,235 1,316 1,314 1,365 1,322
Total Certificates Issued 29,585 29,587 28,500 26,417 27,605 26,293 26,191 24,938

[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 tribunal.

Performance measures

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%

Statement of operations

Revenue Apr. 1, 2016 – Dec. 31, 2016 ($M) Apr. 1, 2017 – Dec. 31, 2017 ($M)
Government Funding $303.3M $313.9M
Law Foundation $19.4M $30.9M
Other Revenue $9.8M $10.7M
Total revenue $332.4M $355.5M
Core Business Expenses
Certificate Costs $171.2M $174.3M
Client Service Offices $16.7M $15.0M
Clinic Program $65.0M $62.3M
Duty Counsel Program $40.9M $39.8M
Service Innovation $1.8M $1.7M
Total Core Business Expenses $295.6M $293.0M
Operating Expenses
Service Provider Support $4.9M $4.6M
Administrative Expenses $28.1M $25.5M
Other Expenditures $6.0M $5.7M
Program Support $21.1M $18.9M
Total Operating Expenses $60.2M $54.6M
Total expenditures $355.7M $347.7M
Surplus / (deficit) before other corporate expenditures / savings ($23.3M) $7.8M

Totals may not add due to rounding