LAO enhances toll-free service to meet record demand

Posted on: Wednesday, May 26, 2010

By dialing 1-800-668-8258, press 0, Ontarians can access a wealth of legal aid information. Services include application information and assistance, summary legal advice for family law and criminal matters, and referrals to community legal clinics and social service agencies.

Since launching in December 2008, use of Legal Aid Ontario’s (LAO) toll-free number offering comprehensive legal aid assistance over the phone has risen dramatically. This indicates the widespread demand for these convenient services.

To best meet client needs, LAO has added additional representatives to help keep wait times to a minimum. The toll-free number connects callers to a client service centre now staffed with more that 60 LAO employees networked from office locations across the province.

LAO has also restructured its call system into two tiers. This new system helps to reduce wait times and connect clients with the appropriate service.

Who’s calling?

Tier 1 staff can triage calls and provide general referrals to duty counsel, community legal clinics or other agencies as needed. Tier 1 staff can also refer clients to Tier 2. Tier 2 staff can provide more specialized services including application processing, and can refer clients to a lawyer for up to 20 minutes of telephone summary legal advice for family and criminal law matters.

The chart below illustrates Tier 1 and Tier 2 call volumes.

Client Service Specialists Call Volume

Through the use of a free, simultaneous interpretation system, LAO offers services toll-free by telephone in over 120 languages, including 18 Aboriginal languages and dialects. Although still a small percentage of callers, the number of non-English and French speakers using the toll-free service continues to rise steadily and it’s predicted this trend will accelerate over time as Ontario’s multi-ethnic population continues to grow.

Non-English calls logged by region

Division of calls received

Ontarians have used the toll-free number primarily for information and applications for criminal and family matters, but LAO provides referrals and assistance for a wide range of matters.

Calls by substantive matter: Tier 1
Calls by substantive matter: Tier 2

LAO’s virtual service centre

As LAO transforms the way legal aid services are delivered across the province, we continue to uphold our commitment to customer service excellence. We’re working on keeping wait times as short as possible for clients, while providing quality service to all our callers.

Client Service Representative Talk and Wait Time

Much of this time-savings is due to the use of the Simplified Online Application Portal (SOAP), which offers a way to accelerate the applications of clearly eligible clients.

SOAP Certificates Taken

Summary Legal Advice

Summary Legal Advice is a professional opinion, based on the facts of a specific legal situation. The information is given over the phone to eligible clients, and is delivered by a legal aid staff lawyer knowledgeable in the relevant area of law. Legal Aid Ontario offers eligible clients up to 20 minutes of summary legal advice for family or criminal law matters. Summary advice lawyers can also refer clients to duty counsel services, legal clinics and private bar, or recommend self-help. They may also advise that a client apply for a legal aid certificate.

Summary Legal Advice


“Our clients have been telling us for years that they want more services available over the phone, and we’re pleased to be able to meet that request. The toll-free number is a key component of our commitment to expand access points for clients using innovation and technology."
– Bob Ward, President and CEO, Legal Aid Ontario


If you have any questions or require more information please contact:

Kristian Justesen
Manager, Communications and Public Affairs
Phone: 416.979.2352 ext. 4782
Email: or