More efficient and effective options for legal aid in Toronto

Posted on: Friday, March 12, 2010

Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is transforming how it delivers its services across the province. By streamlining processes and increasing front-line client services LAO is making legal aid help and information more easily available for low-income Ontarians in Toronto.

A new, more efficient approach to client service delivery

Transformation includes phasing out LAO’s current structure of legal aid application offices and moving to a model that provides a wider range of legal aid services over the phone, online and in courthouses. The Toronto legal aid office will phase out “client intake” (taking applications) in the coming months as LAO focuses on providing clients with more direct legal aid services.

Client services available toll-free

Clients can now access legal aid services, including applications, and summary legal advice for family law matters – a service not available at the area office – through the toll-free number (1-800-668-8258 press 0 - even from a pay phone – no coins required, collect calls accepted).

Assistance is available in 120 languages, including 18 Aboriginal languages and dialects, through simultaneous interpreting services. Delivering legal aid assistance over the phone helps clients who face transportation challenges or language barriers, which can result in cancelled appointments and abandoned requests for assistance. Lawyers who work with Legal Aid Ontario – including more than 2,100 in Toronto – are also encouraged to use the toll-free number as a resource.

Improved website

Many clients in Toronto are already using the CSC and our newly updated Legal Aid Ontario website. ( provides an additional 24/7 resource for legal information for both clients and lawyers. The site has had 180,000 visits to date.

LAO in the courthouse

Legal Aid Ontario is also providing more direct services in courthouses across the province as part of the province’s strategy to reduce court delays by 30 per cent. Clients can still speak to legal aid representatives at LAO courthouse offices, if they need in-person assistance. The courthouse offices will provide in-person assistance to clients who are in court that day, and access for our more vulnerable clients. LAO is expanding staff and duty counsel services at the 311 Jarvis Street, Old City Hall and College Park courts, the latter two locations JOT sites.

LAO’s duty counsel program assists over a million Ontarians each year – almost 180,000 in Toronto alone in 2008/09. With an increased presence in all GTA criminal courts, clients will have greater access to information and legal assistance.

These clients will now be able to apply for legal aid services through the court-based office at the same time they attend for their court appearance. Our court-based staff will also be able to assist duty counsel by giving general information to clients, which will help us deliver our services more efficiently and effectively.

Family Law services

Legal Aid Ontario continues to enhance family law services to match the needs of each community. Establishing family law service centres in Toronto, North York, Brampton and Newmarket legal aid offices will allow clients in the GTA greater access to information and legal assistance.

Modernization projects:

LAO is improving services by using technology and innovation. The Simplified Online Application Portal (SOAP), our online application and eligibility process, has reduced the time needed to process an application by an average of 62 per cent and is geared toward the 50 per cent of LAO’s clients who are clearly eligible. In Toronto, 90 per cent of certificate applications are accepted.

Improving LAO Management:

Legal Aid Ontario’s new service delivery model improves coordination and accountability of legal aid services and builds upon our regional system by establishing districts in each region. In order to streamline administrative processes and direct more resources to client services, the GTA Region is establishing the Toronto District office with centralized functions, including the area committee process, and certificate and panel management responsibilities.

Quick facts

  • 181,326: number of people duty counsel assisted in Toronto in 2008/09
  • 66: Avg. daily applications through the Toronto legal aid office in 2009
  • 73: Avg. daily applications from Toronto through the CSC in 2009
  • 109: Avg. daily application from Toronto through the CSC to date
  • 8,809: eligible for SOAP
  • 4,407 : actual SOAP applications taken
  • 1,722 : applications taken in court
  • 14,571: total applications
  • 1,791 : avg cost of certificate as of December 2009
  • Request to assistance through the LAO CSC have increased by 63 per cent since the same time last year
  • Close to 10,000 people received assistance in January 2010 by contacting LAO’s toll-free Client Service Centre
  • The Simplified Online Application Portal (SOAP) is geared toward the more than 50 per cent of our clients who are clearly eligible for legal aid.
  • SOAP has reduced the average time required to process an application by 62 per cent
  • 163.5: average number of applications processed through SOAP per day (January 2010).

For further information

For questions or further information, please contact:

Kristian Justesen
Manager, Communications and Public Affairs
Phone: 416-979-2352, ext. 4782
Email: and/or

For more information regarding the Legal Aid Ontario Transformation please refer to this link.