LAO update: summer 2020 edition

Published: March 18, 2021

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


Message from the CEO

As COVID-19 continues to challenge us, we remain focused on supporting our remote workforce while expanding services to support our clients and the staff and panel lawyers that serve them.

Starting in March, we introduced temporary services to support clients and service providers during the pandemic. We recently began providing LAO counsel assistance with matters before Superior Court of Justice’s virtual practice court to help address court backlogs that resulted from the province-wide shutdowns in the spring.

In the fall, we ran a short survey to help us understand how the COVID‑19 pandemic has affected staff. Results from the survey show that staff are satisfied with the level and quality of communication from LAO and are generally pleased with the technology in place to allow them to work remotely.

It is no surprise, however, that many feel stress at the thought of how COVID‑19 has and will continue to affect their lives. There is particular unease about how to manage family commitments, including child and elder care, once we return to the physical workspace. LAO will continue to use insights from the survey as a guide to determine what improvements or changes can be made to help us all navigate the pandemic.

Other developments in the second quarter included:

LAO’s ethics and compliance survey results

Results from LAO’s Ethics and Compliance Survey demonstrated that, overall, employees clearly understand what is expected of them and feel comfortable speaking up to report misconduct. Survey results are guiding LAO’s efforts to improve our ethics and compliance process—in particular increasing the transparency of complaint resolution—and the development of additional new training materials and compliance resources for staff.

Budget review

As a result of reduced expenditures, LAO is now forecasting a $6 million shortfall at the end of the 2020/21 fiscal year. This revision reflects the delayed reopening of courts (i.e., decrease in lawyers’ billings) and low interest rates, which have affected Law Foundation of Ontario revenue funding.

Clinic modernization consultations

The new Legal Aid Services Act, 2020 was passed by the legislature and received Royal Assent in July 2020 (awaiting full proclamation). We are now working with legal aid service providers to develop and adapt services and policies to better assist clients. A consultation process is underway that will see a new structure for oversight between LAO and community legal clinics across Ontario. The new framework will come into effect when LASA 2020 is proclaimed.

Unconscious bias staff training

LAO introduced mandatory training on unconscious biases. Through a series of videos, activities and scenarios, this 45‑minute mandatory module is meant to further define and raise awareness of our own unconscious bias, show how it may exist at work, and, offer strategies to fight it.

More information about Q2 developments at LAO follows in the Updates section.



Updates

Legal Aid Ontario: Race-based data for legal aid certificates 2019‑20

July 10, 2020
To better serve its clients, in 2018 LAO began asking clients to voluntarily indicate if they self-identify as part of a racialized group and, if so, how they identify themselves.

Application instructions: three-hour authorizations for responses to June 2020 Refugee Appeal Division (RAD) letters

July 13, 2020
As part of its’ continuing response to COVID‑19, LAO is providing a three hour authorization for RAD requests for specific or updated submissions made in June.

Temporary adjustments to LAO’s change of solicitor policy during COVID‑19

July 16, 2020
LAO adjusted its policy regarding change of solicitor for accused persons at high risk of contracting COVID‑19 should they remain in custody.

New Legal Aid Services Act, 2020 receives royal assent

July 16, 2020
The Ontario legislature passed the new Legal Aid Services Act, 2020, part of Bill 161, the Smarter and Stronger Justice Act, 2020.

Request your mandatory judicial pretrial coverage online

Plus: updated process for Myers review authorizations
July 27, 2020
Courts may now require lawyers to attend an additional JPT to address cases that have been delayed due to the pandemic. Further to our June 1, 2020 announcement, LAO is now temporarily providing an additional two hours of coverage for mandatory judicial pretrials (JPT) in both the Ontario Superior Court and Court of Justice.

LAO assists lawyers, clients with matters before SCJ’s 361 University Ave virtual practice court in Toronto

August 13, 2020
Starting August 14, 2020, on Mondays and Fridays, LAO counsel will assist accused persons with matters before the Superior Court of Justice’s 361&nbssp;University Avenue practice court in Toronto.

Consultation process begins between LAO and community legal clinics

August 17, 2020
LAO hosted consultations to inform the new structure for oversight between LAO and community legal clinics across Ontario.

Nominations for the Sidney B. Linden Award

September 15, 2020
The call for nominations for the Sidney B. Linden Award took place September 15 to October 30, 2020.



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
Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2
Phone: Tier 1 68,281 76,534 74,457 73,473 70,289 68,383 43,299 66,612
Phone: Tier 2 27,254 28,709 28,105 28,742 28,150 30,281 16,056 22,632
Phone: In‑custody clients 8,462 9,120 9,391 9,532 9,258 9,659 7,023 7,643
Phone: Lawyer Service Centre 10,914 10,639 10,598 9,866 9,561 10,297 6,903 7,437

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
Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2
Criminal law 131,619 150,401 129,421 124,309 125,310 137,719 65,033 73,769
Civil law1 34,700 38,233 31,890 25,398 21,375 23,264 9,788 12,178
Total 166,319 188,634 161,311 149,707 146,685 160,983 74,821 85,947

[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
Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2
Approved 27,492 28,854 26,687 25,389 26,386 26,846 19,667 23,632
Refused 3,373 3,658 3,530 3,133 3,321 3,026 948 1,379
Other2 1,653 1,721 1,689 1,529 1,451 1,235 739 465
Total outcomes recorded 32,518 34,233 31,906 30,051 31,158 31,107 21,354 25,476

[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
Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2
Same day 22,757 24,006 22,039 21,186 21,685 22,332 18,491 22,570
1 to 7 days 2,786 3,713 3,556 3,205 3,360 3,013 1,009 1,362
7 to 14 days 1,861 1,529 1,573 1,423 1,517 1,274 247 425
14 to 30 days 2,475 2,182 2,249 1,949 2,247 1,987 359 434
Over 30 days 2,639 2,803 2,489 2,288 2,349 2,501 1,248 685
Total outcomes recorded 32,518 34,233 31,906 30,051 31,158 31,107 21,354 25,476
% same‑day decisions 70.00% 70.10% 69.10% 70.50% 69.60% 71.79% 86.59% 88.59%

Certificates approved by area of law

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Certificates approved by area of law 2018/19 2019/20 2020/21
Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2
Criminal law 15,020 15,929 15,333 14,610 14,754 15,400 10,123 12,126
Family law 6,945 7,585 6,942 5,969 5,439 5,705 6,038 8,079
Immigration and refugee law 4,186 3,904 3,029 3,400 4,878 4,195 1,388 1,587
Other3 1,341 1,436 1,383 1,410 1,315 1,546 2,118 1,840
Total 27,492 28,854 26,687 25,389 26,386 26,846 19,667 23,632

[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) Q2 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% 88.0%
% of calls answered within 3 minutes (LSC) Quarterly Q1 2020/21 80.0% 92.9% 92.0%
% of calls answered within 3 minutes (In‑custody) Quarterly Q1 2020/21 80.0% 71.9% 86.0%
% of calls answered with 20 minutes (L2) Quarterly Q1 2020/21 80.0% 69.5% 94.0%
Overall client satisfaction ‑ % of positive responses (email) Annual Q4 2019/20 80.0% 80.1% 80.1%
Overall lawyer satisfaction ‑ % of positive responses Annual Q2 2020/21 45.0% 43.0% 57.0%


LAO statement of operations

Revenue PY YTD actual Sept. 2019 ($M) CY YTD actual Sept. 2020 ($M)
Revenue
Government funding $172.2 $183.7
Law Foundation $8.2 $51.4
Other revenue $3.7 $7.0
Total revenue $184.1 $242.1
Core business expenses
Certificate costs $69.6 $111.6
Client service offices $7.6 $9.9
Clinic program $47.9 $49.1
Duty counsel program $22.5 $28.3
Service innovation $1.0 $1.1
Total core business expenses $148.6 $199.9
Operating expenses
Service provider support $2.9 $3.3
Administrative expenses $15.6 $16.7
Other expenditures $1.9 $2.8
Program support $11.8 $12.1
Total operating expenses $- $-
Total expenditures $180.8 $234.9
Surplus / (deficit) before other corporate expenditures / savings $3.3 $7.1

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