Legal aid panels
LAO’s professionalism policy
LAO developed the professionalism policy described below to establish a mutual commitment, with panel and staff lawyers, to demonstrating the core values of respect and civility in all communications.
Purpose of this policy
As an integral part of the Ontario public service and the administration of justice, Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is committed to treating people with respect, fairness, equity, dignity and courtesy.
LAO can better carry out its mandate to establish and administer a cost-effective and efficient system for providing high-quality legal aid services to LAO clients when communications between LAO staff and panel lawyers demonstrate these core values.
Who this policy is for
This policy applies to communications between:
- LAO panel lawyers and LAO clients
- LAO staff and panel lawyers
LAO staff and individuals subject to a panel lawyer’s supervision pursuant to the Law Society of Upper Canada’s By-Laws and Rules of Professional Conduct (“Rules”) including By-Law 4, Part V, section 34 (1), By- Law 7.1, Part I, section 4 (1), Chapter 6, Rule 6.1-1, and Chapter 7, Rule 7.8.1-1.
The Rules establish that lawyers assume complete professional responsibility for their practice of law, and that lawyers shall directly supervise students and non-lawyers to whom they assign tasks.
This policy applies to all forms of verbal and non-verbal communication, including written and electronic means of communication.
Requirements of this policy
LAO shall practise respect and civility in all communications with panel lawyers.
Panel lawyers and LAO staff shall practise respect and civility in all communications with LAO staff and LAO clients.
LAO expects panel lawyers and LAO staff to communicate in accordance with the Rules that include Chapter 7, Rule 7.2-1 and 7.2-4. The Rules require lawyers to exercise courtesy, civility and good faith with those whom they have dealings in the course of practice.
Furthermore, the Rules provide that lawyers shall not correspond or communicate to others in an abusive or offensive manner, or in a tone that is inconsistent with professional communication.
These are examples of communications that LAO may consider to be disrespectful or uncivil, and therefore violations of this policy:
- Tone of expression or language that is aggressive, abusive, threatening, profane or degrading
- Name-calling or swearing
- Statements made ad hominem
- Statements made to intimidate or pressure.
If a panel lawyer or staff lawyer fails to comply with this policy, LAO staff may report the matter to the applicable Director General, who may take further action as appropriate.
Further action may result in a referral to the Law Society of Upper Canada, or panel management action up to and including panel removal.