LAO Update: summer 2022 edition

Published: August 29, 2022

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


Message from the CEO

While the summer months are usually a period of relaxation and renewal, LAO has been busy undergoing some changes over the past quarter.

We recently announced that LAO’s provincial office will be moving from the second and tenth floors of Atrium on Bay to the seventh floor in February and March 2023. With our plan to continue transitioning to a hybrid model of in-person and remote work, this move supports efficient use of staff space, and it also provides a more modern and accessible service space for our clients.

We have also had some changes to our executive team: in the spring, we welcomed Aileen Page as LAO’s new Vice President of Strategy & Public Affairs and Annik Wills as LAO’s new Vice President of Operations.

Aileen joined LAO in 2012 as Senior Counsel, General Counsel Office and in 2019 became Director of Litigation. She has led several complex files at LAO, including LAO’s work on the new Legal Aid Services Act, 2020 (LASA 2020) and the development of the Legal Aid Services Rules and associated policy framework. Annik joined LAO in 2015 as Senior Counsel, Criminal Litigation and in 2018 became the Director General, Eastern Region where she was responsible for the oversight of legal aid services. She has contributed to several organizational initiatives including the development of sustainable client service plans in response to the 2019 budget reductions and the COVID-19 pandemic. Both Aileen and Annik are senior litigators by trade, with extensive trial experience and a deep understanding of the dynamics and challenges of client-facing work.

With Aileen and Annik’s wealth of experience, we look forward to their leadership contributions as we move ahead in the post-pandemic legal landscape.

As we welcome our new VPs, we also give our best wishes to David McKillop, our previous Vice President of Strategy & Public Affairs, who retired at the end of June after more than 18 years with LAO. I want to thank David for his service, contributions and dedication to LAO along with its staff, clients, stakeholders and funders.

These are just some of the highlights over the past quarter, and you can read on to discover more below.

I hope you enjoy the rest of your summer and will stay tuned for more updates in the fall about our work here at LAO.



Updates

Divya Khunara receives Arleen Goss Young Advocates’ Award

Congratulations to Divya Khunara, who is the 2022 recipient of the Arleen Goss Young Advocates’ Award.

Presented by The Advocates’ Society, the Arleen Goss Young Advocates’ Award recognizes legal practitioners who are actively involved in their community, demonstrate innovative and passionate advocacy, and contribute to the advancement of social justice.

“I am incredibly humbled by this honour,” she said. “My desire to be a lawyer always stemmed from my deep belief in community service, and I hope that I will continue to have the privilege to serve my community. I look forward to doing just that with all my amazing colleagues at Legal Aid Ontario.”

Live Chat is now being piloted on select web pages

The new live chat feature is now available on the LAO website. This feature allows users to communicate with a live agent in real time by sending messages through a chat box. The live chat will be available Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will allow users to submit general inquiries only. From here, staff will primarily direct users to more helpful resources within our website.

The chat feature will appear on the following seven pages of our website:

Process update regarding a change of lawyer

Effective June 20, 2022, under the Change of Lawyer process, roster members are required to fill a Lawyer Response Form to confirm that they do not intend to bill on a certificate that they acknowledged in error.

Change of lawyer applications may be granted by LAO depending on factors such as the reason for requesting a change (conflict of interest, client’s individual circumstances, etc.), the stage of the proceedings and the complexity of the matter.

Expiry of unacknowledged certificates

Under LASA 2020, roster lawyers are required to accept or decline certificates within a 30-day window, or the certificate will be removed from their profile and the client will be prompted to find another lawyer. Notifications for certificates coming due for acknowledgement will now be featured on the Legal Aid Online Certificate tab.

Marjorie Hiley honoured with street name

LAO congratulates Marjorie Hiley, Executive Director of the Don Valley Community Legal Services Clinic, honoured with a street name in Don Mills Crossing to recognize her outstanding contributions to the Don Mills community.

Since being called to the bar in 1978, Marjorie has taken on various leadership roles at community legal firms and clinics. In addition to her work in the legal sphere, Marjorie has spearheaded the North Toronto Food Drive organization for 12 years and assisted families through the Children’s Aid Society. She has served on the Board of Directors for the Don Mills Foundation and the Better Living organization for the past 25 years. Please join us in celebrating Marjorie for her achievements and lifetime contribution to advocating for the most vulnerable. Congratulations Marjorie on this honour!

LAO’s 2022-25 business plan

The 2022-25 business plan outlines our five-year strategic goals that focus on:

  • Putting clients at the centre of everything what we do
  • Providing staff with the supports they need to help clients
  • Being innovative in how we deliver our services
  • Collaborating effectively
  • Demonstrating value for money

In addition to these goals, priorities include the ongoing implementation of the Legal Aid Services Rules and Policies under the Legal Aid Services Act, 2020 (LASA 2020). We will also continue:

  • To modernize services and the technology employed to deliver them.
  • To advance equity, diversity and inclusion at Legal Aid Ontario through updates to our human resources policies and providing training at all levels of the organization.
  • Our efforts to redress systemic access to justice issues Black, racialized and Indigenous communities and clients face and tailor our services to assist these clients better.

Update of consent and declaration for certificate applicants

Effective May 28, 2022, LAO’s consent and declaration (C&D) form for legal aid applicants has been updated to ensure consistency with language in LASA 2020 and the Legal Aid Services Rules.

The update also includes:

  • the C&D for a spouse or person responsible
  • the confirmation of eligibility provided to the applicant when they are approved for certificate services
  • more information about the relationship between applicants and LAO and their obligations as recipients of legal aid services

The update does not change LAO processes, nor does it change the obligations of applicants, clients or roster lawyer service providers who deliver certificate services.

The updated C&D continues to be valid for six years (except for those applicants identified as high risk or case managed).

Clinic email addresses changed on May 16

Effective May 16, 2022, all clinic email addresses changed. Clinic users will be using a new email address that includes a new domain name and naming convention in the following format: firstname.lastname@clinicacronym.clcj.ca (e.g. john.doe@acro.clcj.ca).

Additionally, the clinic acronym for some clinics will also be changing.