LASA 1998: General terms and conditions for panel lawyers

Published: June 14, 2022

Note: the General Terms and Conditions below apply to service providers on Legal Aid Ontario’s panel who accepted certificates and provided legal services under the authority of the Legal Aid Services Act, 1998. Effective October 18, 2021, this Act was repealed and replaced with the Legal Aid Services Act, 2020. The Legal Aid Services Act, 2020, now applies to all lawyers authorized by LAO to provide legal services. These General Terms and Conditions may continue to apply to certain circumstances related to the delivery of legal aid services prior to the effective date of LASA 2020 (October 18, 2021). For further details, see Ontario Regulation 673/21 “Transitional Matters” made under the Legal Aid Services Act, 2020 and section 51 of the Legislation Act.

Please be sure to read the following before submitting the lawyer empanelment forms.

Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) will:

  1. Pay for certificate and duty counsel services in accordance with the Legal Aid Services Act, its regulations and schedules, and the Tariff and Billing Handbook.
  2. Apply Legal Aid Ontario’s processes, procedures and policies consistently fairly and impartially.
  3. Respond promptly to all requests for information.
  4. Provide appropriate opportunities for review and reconsideration of decisions.
  5. Notify you in a timely manner of changes to LAO’s processes, procedures and policies.
  6. Support and assist you in fulfilling your obligations to clients and LAO.
  7. Train and support its staff to provide clients and lawyers with prompt and effective service.
  8. Provide and receive written or verbal communications in English or French in designated bilingual areas of the province.
  9. Treat you with fairness, respect and consideration.
  10. Be open and consultative in decision-making.
  11. Protect the privacy of your personal and financial information, in accordance with the provisions of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Legal Aid Services Act (LASA) and the Tariff and Billing Handbook.

General terms

The lawyer will:

  1. Be a member in good standing of the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) eligible to practice law in the province of Ontario.
  2. Notify LAO promptly of any change in LSUC membership status and if not in good standing, refrain from performing any legal aid services.
  3. Keep informed about, and comply with LAO’s procedures, policies and administrative requirements.
  4. Act honestly and in good faith in dealing with LAO.
  5. Respond promptly to all requests by LAO for information.
  6. Advise LAO promptly of any changes to his or her business address or contact details.
  7. Advise if he or she wants to be removed from the legal aid panels.
  8. Accept payment by way of electronic funds transfer (direct deposit).

Protecting LAO’s interest

The lawyer will:

  1. Take all reasonable steps to protect the interests of LAO in any award of costs or recovery by the client in accordance with LASA.
  2. Advise LAO, Where it has come to your attention that a client has had any change in his or her financial circumstances or failed to disclose assets or income to LAO.
  3. Upon receipt of any settlement funds:

    • Immediately notify LAO that he or she has received such funds;
    • Hold sufficient funds in trust to pay LAO any money that LAO has paid or is obliged to pay in the case; and
    • Pay those funds to LAO upon request, or to the client if authorized by LAO to do so.
  4. Advise LAO promptly if an account for legal services will exceed the estimated cost in the case of certificates issued with contribution agreements.
  5. Not commit LAO to make a payment of any kind to a third party, or consent to a court order requiring LAO to make any payment, without LAO’s prior consent.

Acknowledging a certificate

Accepting a certificate means that the lawyer will:

  1. Provide the legal services authorized by the certificate, and bill LAO in accordance with the terms and conditions set out in this document, LASA, its regulations and schedules, and the Tariff and Billing Handbook.
  2. Not request or accept payment or other benefit in addition to the amounts paid for legal aid services, except that he or she may make a fee arrangement with a client when the certificate is issued for disbursements only.
  3. Not claim a lien for fees, charges or expenses on the property or papers in his or her possession belonging to an individual to whom he or she provided legal aid services.
  4. Disclose to LAO amounts received from the client on a private retainer basis on any matter related to the certificate before or after the effective date of the certificate.
  5. Provide copies of all accounts to the client and anyone who signed an agreement to contribute to the certificate cost, unless otherwise authorized by LAO.
  6. Continue to provide service to the client unless removed from the record as counsel in accordance with the Rules of Professional Conduct
  7. Notify LAO in advance if seeking to be removed from the record as the result of an alleged act or omission of LAO or its representatives.
  8. Notify LAO immediately if he or she ceases to act for a legally aided client or if he or she is transferring the certificate to another lawyer.

Billing for certificate and duty counsel services

In billing for services, the lawyer will:

  1. Familiarize yourself with and abide by the billing provisions of the Tariff and Billing Handbook and the Duty Counsel Manual, including

    • time limits for submitting accounts;
    • process for obtaining disbursement authorizations;
    • process for retaining agents or other lawyers.
  2. By submitting an account, represent and warrant that, as the acknowledging lawyer, are responsible for ensuring the accuracy of the contents of the account and have:

    • reviewed the account before submitting it to LAO;
    • performed the legal services billed for on the dates and times recorded, unless otherwise stated;
    • made reasonable efforts to ensure legal fees and disbursements were reasonable and necessary; and
    • are entitled to receive payment according to LASA and its regulations and schedules.
  3. Keep proper books and records and provide them to LAO as required:

    • Maintain adequate time-keeping and accounting records for each certificate, including:

      • itemization of services rendered; in chronological order;
      • detailed description of services;
      • dates and duration for all services (times of day are required for all services of a half an hour or more);
      • itemization of disbursements incurred, and copies of disbursement invoices including invoices of agents and other service providers.
    • Provide LAO upon request, with proof and justification of all items included in an account, including production of the time-keeping and accounting records. These records shall be maintained for Legal Aid Ontario purposes for six years following the end of the year in which the final account was submitted.

    • Acknowledge that LAO may refuse to pay the lawyer’s accounts if he or she fails to provide adequate documentation confirming legal fees and disbursements within a reasonable time.

    • Acknowledge that if LAO determines that he or she has been overpaid for legal aid services, LAO may deduct the amount of the overpayment from any money payable to him or her.

    • Acknowledge that LAO may charge an administrative fee to assist in the cost of an audit billing investigation.

  4. Acknowledge that LAO does not pay for any services and requires repayment of any fees paid to a lawyer who has practiced while not a member in good standing of the LSUC.

Duty counsel

When acting as duty counsel or advice lawyer, you agree that:

  1. You will attend all assignments on time and as scheduled, or provide reasonable notice to LAO if unable to do so.
  2. If you have represented or advised a person as duty counsel, neither you nor any of your associates shall knowingly act for the person in the same matter, otherwise than as duty counsel, unless authorized by the local area director.
  3. You will not accept payment or gratuity from any person you assist as duty counsel or advice lawyer, or hold monies or chattels in trust for such a person.