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Eyes on LAO

Reducing Court Appearances Across the Province

Posted on: Thursday, July 17/08

Legal Aid Ontario is playing a major role in helping reduce court appearances, through innovative new services in courthouses around the province.

On June 3, 2008 the Ontario government announced a new Justice on Target strategy to reduce court delays and appearances by 30 per cent over the next four years. This is the first time the government has set a target for reducing court appearances.

Also, available to the public for the first time, are criminal court statistics so that the public can see the strategy's impact on courthouses in their local communities.

On-site Legal Aid

Legal Aid is opening an additional 17 on-site application offices in criminal court locations with the help of the Ontario government in the coming months.

Once open, Legal Aid's on-site offices will operate in 26 courthouses serving almost 80 per cent of criminal legal aid clients province-wide.

Clients will be able to move through the court system faster, with an accused person applying for legal aid on-site. If they are successful, the accused can retain a lawyer more quickly, helping reduce the number of appearances needed to conduct a case, and allowing more cases to move through the system more effectively.

Simplified Online Application Process (SOAP)

LAO has introduced a simplified online application process (SOAP) as a pilot project, for clients who meet certain eligibility criteria.

Using SOAP, LAO staff can help a client apply for a legal aid certificate online and if approved, they can print the certificate right away. In the coming months, this service will be expanded to allow defence counsel and caseworkers to take online applications.

About 40 per cent of legal aid applicants meet both the financial and legal criteria for certificate coverage because of their financial status and/or the seriousness of their legal matter. The focus of SOAP is on this group of clearly eligible clients. It opens up the possibility to enable lawyers and service providers to submit certificate applications and to start work on a client's case more quickly.

Online Lawyer Acknowledgement (OLA)

Lawyers who do legal aid work can now acknowledge legal aid certificates online. As soon as the client presents the certificate and it is acknowledged, lawyers can start working and billing on the case by the next day.

How OLA works:
A client indicates to LAO which lawyer they want. The lawyer receives the paper certificate and signs into Legal Aid Online, an online billing program, where they acknowledge the certificate. The certificate is then updated in the system and can be billed against 24 hours later.