LAO update: winter 2019 edition

Published: March 31, 2019

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

Message from the CEO

Shortly after the close of LAO’s 2018/19 fiscal year, the provincial government announced their 2019 budget. To fit within our 2019 financial allocation, and address a deficit of approximately $74 million, LAO is carefully examining our expenditures across all parts of the legal aid system. We are grateful to the Law Foundation of Ontario’s recent additional one‑time grant of $15M, which will assist in addressing transition costs and minimize our deficit.

Clients remain at the centre of all that we do. Our aim is to implement a plan that will realize savings across the organization and strengthen the sustainability of our legal aid system while ensuring that frontline service remain strong.

LAO welcomes new chair

At the start of this fiscal, we welcomed our new chair, Charles Harnick, and we prepared to say goodbye to our former chair, John McCamus.

Charles, who was Ontario’s 31st Attorney General, introduced the Legal Aid Services Act in 1998—the act that created Legal Aid Ontario. He takes over from John, who has provided more than 11 years of skillful leadership to the organization.

John’s report on legal aid was the blueprint that made LAO a success from its inception. It remains to this day a very thorough and important report on the delivery of legal aid services. The numerous international delegations and visitors we receive each year is a reflection of the impact that John’s report continues to have worldwide more than twenty years after its publication.

We have benefitted tremendously from John’s thoughtful leadership and generous mentorship.

On behalf of LAO, I wish John all the best and thank him for his service. And please join me in welcoming Charles.


Details on LAO’s financial eligibility increase for 2019

March 20, 2019
On April 1, 2019, Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is raising the eligibility threshold by six per cent for its certificate program and for clinic law services.

Black Legal Action Centre opens

March 18, 2019
The Black Legal Action Centre, a not‑for‑profit organization aimed at combatting individual and systemic anti‑Black racism, opens.

2018 Sidney B. Linden award goes to Mary Birdsell

March 4, 2019
Mary Birdsell, the executive director of Justice for Children and Youth receives the Sidney B. Linden award.

Staying connected to Legal Aid Online

January 28, 2019
Make sure your email address on file is up to date!

LAO releases new five‑year strategic plan

January 16, 2019
LAO reaffirms its commitment to meeting clients’ needs in its new five‑year strategic plan.

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.

Graphic of a line chart. Data presented is available in the table below
Persons assisted for intake, triage and support 2017/18 2018/19
Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4
Phone: Tier 1 75,588 69,813 63,187 76,566 70,156 73,498 68,281 76,534
Phone: Tier 2 26,587 26,336 24,235 23,152 26,614 29,117 27,254 28,709
Phone: In‑custody clients 8,773 8,919 7,693 7,437 8,194 9,066 8,462 9,120
Phone: Lawyer Service Centre 11,132 11,403 11,942 12,061 11,571 11,106 10,914 10,639

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

Graphic of a line chart. Data presented is available in the table below
Persons assisted by duty counsel ‑ criminal law 2017/18 2018/19
Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4
Per Diem DC 30,116 39,126 34,668 40,806 33,440 38,798 36,967 45,622
Staff DC 93,836 84,437 84,900 96,554 77,985 81,874 93,499 103,653
Total 123,952 123,563 119,568 137,360 111,425 120,672 130,466 149,275

Family law services

Graphic of a line chart. Data presented is available in the table below
Persons assisted by duty counsel ‑ family law 2017/18 2018/19
Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4
Per Diem DC 15,118 19,148 17,369 20,866 17,278 17,733 16,765 20,170
Staff DC 15,096 14,684 15,836 21,026 14,400 15,502 17,805 17,904
Total 30,214 33,832 33,205 41,892 31,678 33,235 34,570 38,074

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.

Graphic of a line chart. Data presented is available in the table below
Certificates issued by area of law 2017/18 2018/19
Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4
Criminal law 14,520 14,492 13,714 14,053 14,953 14,506 15,020 15,929
Family law 7,200 7,028 6,409 6,411 7,473 7,398 6,945 7,585
Immigration and refugee law 3,259 3,306 3,493 3,628 3,968 4,123 4,186 3,904
Other1 1,314 1,365 1,322 1,359 1,400 1,421 1,341 1,436
Total 26,293 26,191 24,938 25,451 27,794 27,448 27,492 28,854

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 tribunals.

Performance measures

Key Performance Indicator (KPI) name Measurement frequency Last measured Target Previous year (2017/18) Current value
% of same day decisions for certificates Quarterly Q4 2018/19 80.0% 76.2% 77.2%
% of area office appeals heard within 3 days Quarterly Q4 2018/19 80.0% 51.3% 62.3%
Acceptance rate for certificate applications Quarterly Q4 2018/19 87.0% 86.8% 87.2%
% of calls answered with 3 minutes (L1) Quarterly Q4 2018/19 80.0% 46.0% 70.0%
% of calls answered within 3 minutes (LSC) Quarterly Q4 2018/19 80.0% 77.0% 82.0%
% of calls answered within 3 minutes (In‑custody) Quarterly Q4 2018/19 80.0% 64.0% 76.0%
% of calls answered with 20 minutes (L2) Quarterly Q4 2018/19 80.0% 50.0% 79.0%
Overall client satisfaction ‑ $ of positive responses (email) Annual Q4 2018/19 80.0% 77.0% 80.7%
Number of Ontarians financially eligibile for LAO’s services Annual Q1 2018/19 Maintain 1,540,000 1,690,000
Overall lawyer satisfaction ‑ % of positive responses Annual Q3 2018/19 60.0% 53.0% 52.0%

LAO statement of operations

Revenue Apr. 1, 2017 ‑ Mar. 31 2018 ($M) Apr. 1, 2018 ‑ Mar. 31 2019 ($M)
Government funding $428.0M $405.0M
Law Foundation $46.9M $79.0M
Other revenue $12.7M $11.9M
Total revenue $487.7M $495.9M
Core business expenses
Certificate costs $232.4M $225.0M
Client service offices $20.4M $20.1M
Clinic program $85.8M $98.7M
Duty counsel program $56.1M $60.8M
Service innovation $2.2M $2.3M
Total core business expenses $396.8M $406.9M
Operating expenses
Service provider support $6.4M $7.1M
Administrative expenses $36.9M $38.0M
Other expenditures $10.7M $3.2M
Program support $26.0M $27.6M
Total operating expenses $80.0M $75.9M
Total expenditures $476.8M $482.7M
Surplus / (deficit) before other corporate expenditures / savings $10.8M $13.2M

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