LAO Update: Winter 2018 Edition

Published: March 31, 2018

Message from the CEO

As 2017/18 drew to a close, the Ontario government released its 2018 budget, which included an ongoing investment in the expansion of legal aid.

Since 2014, the government has raised the eligibility threshold for legal aid by 25 per cent, bringing us even closer to the low income measure and enabling more low‑income Ontarians to use our services.

At the tail end of March, we announced that we were raising our eligibility threshold for 2018 by another six per cent for our certificate program and for clinic law services, effective April 1.

Also effective that date, we started asking legal aid applicants about their race to help us collect the statistics that would help LAO figure out how to improve our services and create the types of programs that certain racialized groups need. This initiative is just one that LAO has begun as part of our vulnerable client strategies. A core focus for us is to develop a stronger understanding of what certain client groups need so that we can get them the services that they need most.

In January, for example, we announced that we would be funding the new legal aid clinic, Black Legal Action Centre. This is a grassroots effort that help us ensure that much needed legal services are getting to the communities that need them.

Regarding LAO’s financial situation, things have improved significantly since the end of 2016 when we were forced to take measures to bring spending into line with a balanced budget. As a result of our budget strategy, as well as increases in funding from the Federal government (for refugee services) and from the Law Foundation (due to increases to the Bank of Canada interest rate in July and September last year), LAO ended the 2017/18 fiscal year with an operating surplus.

While there is still a ways to go, we are definitely in a better position than we were a year ago. Looking forward, we know that better than anticipated revenues from the Law Foundation will help us to move forward with new services and updates to programs. We are currently assessing our fiscal position and will keep you up-to-date as we move forward when LAO is able to gradually start reintroducing certain services. To provide a broad overview of the services we provided to clients in 2017/18, we will be sharing our service level reports for certificates, the call centre, duty counsel and others as they are finalized. We will share our services level report for 2017/18 as they are finalized.



David Field
President & CEO
Legal Aid Ontario

Projects and announcements from the fourth quarter

A new legal aid clinic for Black Ontarians
Wednesday, January 10, 2018
2017 Sidney B. Linden Award goes to Grace Pluchino
Thursday, January 11, 2018
Longer than usual wait times for LAO’s call centre
Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Details on Legal Aid Ontario’s financial eligibility increase for 2018
Tuesday, March 20, 2018
LAO starts to collect race-based data
Monday, March 26, 2018

Selected media (English only)

New legal clinic for Black Ontarians in place by August 2018
May Warren, Metro, January 10, 2018
Law society seeks greater involvement in legal aid issues
Jacques Gallant, Toronto Star, January 25, 2018
Prowling the cells at Old City Hall
Kevin Connor, Toronto Sun, February 25, 2018
Trial in absence a real Toronto tragedy
Op-ed by Amy Slotek (staff lawyer), Toronto Star, March 26, 2018


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 2016/17 2017/18
Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4
Phone: Tier 1 68,891 78,089 75,588 69,813 63,187 76,566
Phone: Tier 2 26,108 30,167 26,587 26,336 24,235 23,152
Phone: In-custody clients 7,419 8,992 8,773 8,919 7,693 7,437
Phone: Lawyer Service Centre 10,306 11,928 11,132 11,403 11,942 12,061

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 2016/17 2017/18
Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4
Per Diem DC 32,748 35,215 30,116 39,126 34,668 40,806
Staff DC 72,275 99,422 93,836 84,437 84,900 96,554
Total 105,023 134,637 123,952 123,563 119,568 137,360

Family law services

Click here to download image.
Persons assisted by duty counsel – family law 2016/17 2017/18
Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4
Per Diem DC 17,711 20,527 15,118 19,148 17,369 20,866
Staff DC 17,858 19,068 15,096 14,684 15,836 21,026
Total 35,569 39,595 30,214 33,832 33,205 41,892

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 2016/17 2017/18
Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4
Criminal Law 15,065 15,386 14,520 14,492 13,714 14,053
Family Law 6,841 7,452 7,200 7,028 6,409 6,411
Immigration and Refugee Law 3,276 3,451 3,259 3,306 3,493 3,628
Other[1] 1,235 1,316 1,314 1,365 1,322 1,359
Total Certificates Issued 26,417 27,605 26,293 26,191 24,938 25,451

[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 Q4 2017/18 80% 75.6% 78.5%
% of area office appeals heard within 3 days Quarterly Q4 2017/18 80% 51.6% 53.0%
Acceptance rate for certificate applications Quarterly Q4 2017/18 87% 87.7% 84.5%
% of calls answered within 3 minutes (L1) Quarterly Q4 2017/18 80% 83.0% 16.0%
% of calls answered within 3 minutes (LSC) Quarterly Q4 2017/18 80% 69.0% 87.0%
% of calls answered within 3 minutes (Worklist) Quarterly Q4 2017/18 80% 88.0% 54.0%
% of calls answered within 20 minutes (L2) Quarterly Q4 2017/18 80% 79.0% 20.0%
Overall client satisfaction – % of positive responses (in-person) Annual Q4 2017/18 80% 93.0% 77.0%
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 – Mar. 31, 2017 ($M) Apr. 1, 2017 – Mar. 31, 2018 ($M)
Government Funding $414.4M $428.0M
Law Foundation $29.3M $46.9M
Other Revenue $12.2M $12.7M
Total revenue $455.9M $487.7M
Core Business Expenses
Certificate Costs $231.8M $232.4M
Client Service Offices $22.6M $20.4M
Clinic Program $87.1M $85.8M
Duty Counsel Program $56.2M $56.1M
Service Innovation $2.2M $2.2M
Total Core Business Expenses $399.9M $396.8M
Operating Expenses
Service Provider Support $6.7M $6.4M
Administrative Expenses $38.8M $36.9M
Other Expenditures $7.2M $10.7M
Program Support $28.8M $26.0M
Total Operating Expenses $81.5M $80.0M
Total expenditures $481.4M $476.8M
Surplus / (deficit) before other corporate expenditures / savings ($25.5M) $10.8M

Totals may not add due to rounding