B3: Better Billing Bulletin

Vol. 45
May. 2014

Legal Aid Ontario's Lawyer Services & Payments Department (LSP) is happy to bring you this edition of the Better Billing Bulletin. It's meant to provide you and your staff with information regarding tariff and billing practices. We hope you'll find it useful.

Speedier payment of accounts

Effective late April, to provide lawyers with faster payment and enable Lawyer Services and Payments (LSP) staff to address other accounts sooner, we will make the following changes to the system.

For accounts that include disbursement billing:

  • If your account is within the tariff, and the billing issue relates to disbursements, we will process and pay the fees portion of your account within 21 days, and the disbursement portion within 60 days.
  • You will now only have to enter your travel hours once. We’ve modified the system to automatically enter your total hours in the “Authorization” field.
  • The system’s threshold for disbursements now matches the intended threshold. In the past, when the disbursement limit for a matter was, say $200, your payment used to be held up because the system’s threshold was $150. Now both payment thresholds are the same.

For block fee accounts

For block fee accounts, the system will base billing deadlines on the disposition date, rather than the service start date. As a result, final accounts with a disposition date more than 18 months from the certificate issue date will not be considered late. You must still, however, bill interim accounts for block fee or ancillary block fees (such as bail hearings) on time.

Private retainers

If you receive a certificate for legal services for which you have or will receive a private retainer, you must use a private docket and trust and ledger statements to disclose the existance and amount:

  • no matter what type of certificate you receive
  • no matter what LAO authorizations you have received
  • for legal services for the same of related matter (and ancillary matters)
  • no matter what fees have been paid or who paid the retainer.

LAO considers a private retainer to be any agreement to represent a legal aid client through any method other than through a certificate, including:

  • signed or unsigned formal retainer agreements
  • partial retainers, where the terms of the retainer agreement are not fully performed or completed
  • informal unwritten/verbal retainer agreements
  • pro bono (free) retainer agreements
  • retainer agreements for disbursements only
  • acceptance of any money for fees and/or disbursements, payable to the lawyer or to any third party

LAO will take these private retainers into consideration when considering payment of your legal aid account.

Note: You are not permitted to bill privately for services (or related and ancillary matters) provided after the effective date of the certificate.

New, improved electronic document submission

We’ve updated Legal Aid Online to help you send your correspondence to the correct department for processing and help us process your request faster. As illustrated in the screen shots below, we’ve organized document types by category, and include instructions for each category. Plus, we’ve added a category – opinion guideline for Big Case Managed criminal appeals.

Screenshot of Electronic Document Submission page
Screenshot opinion guideline for Big Case Managed criminal appeals option

Please let us know if you have questions or if there are topics you'd like to see us cover by contacting the Lawyer Service Centre at 1-866-979-9934 or pl-lsc@lao.on.ca