LAO update: spring 2020 edition

Published: August 31, 2020

A quarterly update on Legal Aid Ontario’s latest access to justice initiatives


Executive summary

The first quarter was focused on the shift to a fully remote workforce while continuing to provide the high quality legal services and support our clients need and expect from us.

We introduced measures—such as a dedicated duty counsel legal advice phone line for in‑custody clients, billing policy and certificate coverage changes—to reduce barriers to access and delivery of legal services, particularly for those faced with legal and personal safety issues as a result of the pandemic.

As clients are re-directed to our virtual services and with the gradual reopening of the economy, we experienced an increase in call volume. This trend has steadily continued throughout the first quarter.

More information on developments at LAO between April through June, 2020, follows in the updates section.



Updates

Temporary changes to LAO billing policies in response to COVID‑19

April 9, 2020
As part of the ongoing response to the COVID‑19 pandemic, LAO is making temporary changes to our billing policies together with other business supports and information for service providers.

Live duty counsel legal advice for in-custody clients with upcoming court appearances, without legal representation for criminal matters

April 9, 2020
LAO will provide live duty counsel legal advice for in-custody clients with upcoming court appearances and without legal representation for criminal matters, starting April 14, 2020.

New coverage for mandatory judicial pre trials in response to COVID‑19

June 1, 2020
LAO will soon provide an additional two hours of legal aid coverage for mandatory JPTs in both the Ontario Superior Court and the Court of Justice.

Confronting anti-Black racism

June 5, 2020
Opinion piece by President and CEO David Field on anti‑Black racism and police violence.

Sidney B. Linden Award presented to Timothy Lutes

June 19, 2020
Timothy Lutes, a staff lawyer working in LAO’s Provincial Case Management Office, was formally honoured with the Sidney B. Linden Award.

Increased / new coverage for Consent and Capacity Board appeals

June 21, 2020
Effective immediately, Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) will be making changes to its certificate coverage for Consent and Capacity Board (CCB) appeals.



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.

  • 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 on, 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

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Persons assisted for intake, triage and support 2018/19 2019/20 2020/21
Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1
Phone: Tier 1 73,498 68,281 76,534 74,457 73,473 70,289 68,383 43,299
Phone: Tier 2 29,117 27,254 28,709 28,105 28,742 28,150 30,281 16,056
Phone: In‑custody clients 9,066 8,462 9,120 9,391 9,532 9,258 9,659 7,023
Phone: Lawyer Service Centre 11,106 10,914 10,639 10,598 9,866 9,561 10,297 6,903

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.

Number of people assisted by duty counsel

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Persons assisted 2018/19 2019/20 2020/21
Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1
Criminal law 121,721 131,619 150,401 129,421 124,309 125,310 137,719 65,033
Civil law1 33,345 34,700 38,233 31,890 25,398 21,375 23,264 9,788
Total 155,066 166,319 188,634 161,311 149,707 146,685 160,983 74,821

[1] This category consists largely of people assisted in family law courts

Certificate program

LAO staff working at courthouses or on the phone assess whether an individual qualifies for legal help from LAO, and what kind of legal help they qualify for. A formal application is then created, and, if approved, a certificate is issued. Certificates state the type of service and length of time, as LAO will pay for a lawyer to complete the service based on the typical amount of work required.

Certificate application outcomes

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Certificate application outcomes 2018/19 2019/20 2020/21
Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1
Approved 27,448 27,492 28,854 26,687 25,389 26,386 26,846 19,667
Refused 3,369 3,373 3,658 3,530 3,133 3,321 3,026 948
Other2 1,502 1,653 1,721 1,689 1,529 1,451 1,235 739
Total outcomes recorded 32,319 32,518 34,233 31,906 30,051 31,158 31,107 21,354

[2] Application outcomes labelled as “Other” are often of an administrative nature and can include: referrals to other service providers, applications withdrawn by the client, or instances when an application was created in error.

Length of time to determine application outcome

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Length of time to determine application outcome 2018/19 2019/20 2020/21
Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1
Same day 22,755 22,757 24,006 22,039 21,186 21,685 22,332 18,491
1 to 7 days 2,929 2,786 3,713 3,556 3,205 3,360 3,013 1,009
7 to 14 days 1,664 1,861 1,529 1,573 1,423 1,517 1,274 247
14 to 30 days 2,327 2,475 2,182 2,249 1,949 2,247 1,987 359
Over 30 days 2,644 2,639 2,803 2,489 2,288 2,349 2,501 1,248
Total outcomes recorded 32,319 32,518 34,233 31,906 30,051 31,158 31,107 21,354
% same‑day decisions 70.40% 70.00% 70.10% 69.10% 70.50% 69.60% 71.79% 86.59%

Certificates approved by area of law

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Certificates approved by area of law 2018/19 2019/20 2020/21
Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1
Criminal law 14,506 15,020 15,929 15,333 14,610 14,754 15,400 10,123
Family law 7,398 6,945 7,585 6,942 5,969 5,439 5,705 6,038
Immigration and refugee law 4,123 4,186 3,904 3,029 3,400 4,878 4,195 1,388
Other3 1,421 1,341 1,436 1,383 1,410 1,315 1,546 2,118
Total 27,448 27,492 28,854 26,687 25,389 26,386 26,846 19,667

[3] 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 (2019/20) Q1 2020/21
% of area office appeals heard within 3 days Quarterly Q1 2020/21 80.0% 68.9% 57.0%
% of calls answered within 3 minutes (L1) Quarterly Q1 2020/21 80.0% 57.1% 93.0%
% of calls answered within 3 minutes (LSC) Quarterly Q1 2020/21 80.0% 92.9% 90.0%
% of calls answered within 3 minutes (In‑custody) Quarterly Q1 2020/21 80.0% 71.9% 97.0%
% of calls answered with 20 minutes (L2) Quarterly Q1 2020/21 80.0% 69.5% 98.0%
Overall client satisfaction ‑ % of positive responses (email) Annual Q4 2019/20 80.0% 80.1% 80.1%
Overall lawyer satisfaction ‑ % of positive responses Annual Q3 2019/20 45.0% 43.0% 43.0%


LAO statement of operations

Revenue PY YTD actual Jun. 2019 ($M) CY YTD actual Jun. 2020 ($M)
Revenue
Government funding $85.0 $88.7
Law Foundation $25.5 $2.3
Other revenue $4.0 $1.8
Total revenue $114.5 $92.9
Core business expenses
Certificate costs $62.1 $35.0
Client service offices $4.8 $3.7
Clinic program $25.1 $24.0
Duty counsel program $13.8 $9.9
Service innovation $0.8 $0.6
Total core business expenses $106.6 $73.2
Operating expenses
Service provider support $1.6 $1.3
Administrative expenses $8.3 $7.2
Other expenditures $1.4 $1.0
Program support $5.8 $5.4
Total operating expenses $17.0 $14.9
Total expenditures $123.6 $88.2
Surplus / (deficit) before other corporate expenditures / savings $(9.1) $4.7

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