Etobicoke residents now have more legal aid options

Posted on: Friday, March 19, 2010

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

A new, more efficient approach to client service delivery

LAO is phasing out the current structure of legal aid application offices and moving toward a model that provides a wider range of legal aid services for clients over the phone, through the Internet and in the courthouses.

Client service 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 are required and collect calls are 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 are also encouraged to use the toll-free number as a resource.

Improved website

Our newly updated website ( provides an additional 24/7 resource for legal information for both clients and lawyers. The site has had 180,000 visits since its re-launch in mid-November 2009.

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 will be expanding staff and duty counsel services in upcoming months. LAO’s duty counsel program assists over a million Ontarians each year – 54,364 in Etobicoke in 2008/09.

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.

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 and is geared toward the 50 per cent of LAO’s clients who are clearly eligible.

Improving LAO Management

Legal Aid Ontario’s new service delivery model improves coordination and accountability of legal aid services. The legal aid office in Toronto is now the GTA District office, which will act as the hub for all legal aid services in the region. Directors, Paula Beard, Sheilagh O’Connell and Maureen Hastings are responsible for all legal aid services in the GTA and they are the new points of contact for service providers. The district office will support clinics, duty counsel, panel lawyers, manage client services and build relationships with justice system stakeholders.

Quick facts

  • 54,364 : number of duty counsel assists in Etobicoke in 2008/09
  • Requests for assistance through LAO’s toll free number 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 toll-free
  • 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