COVID-19: Ongoing list of supports for lawyers
Updated: August 14, 2020
On this page:
As part of the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic, LAO is working to offer more business support and information to service providers.
Please bookmark this page and check back often to see what additional supports have been created to help you.
Billings and payments
- Billing deadlines are extended for accounts due between March 16, 2020 and September 30, 2020. You must make your request for an extension when you submit your account online.
- We are temporarily changing how block-eligible certificates are billed, allowing you to bill a certificate as a block fee, or by the hourly tariff. The choice will be available on any certificate that has not been final billed.
Discretion: We’re expanding criteria for exceptional circumstances For cases where additional work was required as a result of the COVID‑19 pandemic. Where you have done additional work for a case, please explain in detail how it relates to the COVID‑19 pandemic.
Teleconference and video appearances: We’re treating teleconference and video appearances as physical appearances where the courts and tribunals have implemented alternatives to personal appearances. Please ensure to clearly docket these virtual attendances indicating the court and the judicial officer at the attendance.
The remaining rules governing court attendances and those at tribunals have not changed at the time of this notice.
- Reducing payment time from 28 to 14 days for submitted accounts, effective March 27.
- Paying all outstanding billings (approximately $17.8M) to the private bar in LAO’s accounts payable by March 27.
- Exploring alternate payments.
- Paying volunteer criminal lawyers who attended court March 16 to 20, 2020.
- Working on a temporary payment option for block fees that will allow counsel the choice of billing on an hourly basis so lawyers can bill for prep work prior to the conclusion of a matter and bill for resolutions where they were not in attendance.
- Temporarily suspending collection on recoveries identified in audits and investigations.
- Reinstituting the bail block authorization to be added to certificates.
- Waiving merit testing for bail review.
- LAO is covering Myers bail reviews as emergency bail responses during the COVID‑19 pandemic. Learn how to apply.
- LAO is providing an additional two hours of legal aid coverage for mandatory JPTs in both the Ontario Superior Court and the Court of Justice. Learn how to apply.
Legal and financial eligibility testing
Effective March 16, 2020, LAO is waiving legal and financial eligibility testing for the following:
- Criminal defence certificates for in-custody accused (excluding homicide)
- Summary legal advice
- Child, Youth, and Family Services Act (CYFSA) matters
- Psychiatric patients seeking assistance for CCB and ORB matters
- Victims of domestic abuse who are seeking family court assistance including initial and motion to change proceedings
Important notice: Although financial eligibility requirements are temporarily waived for some of our services during the COVID‑19 crisis, LAO will still ask clients to provide information about financial circumstances (e.g., earnings and assets) in order to complete a legal aid application. This financial information will help us to assess and monitor recent service changes; it will not affect the application.
Government of Canada and Government of Ontario temporary benefits
If you or your business has been affected by COVID‑19, eligible panel lawyers may be able to receive temporary benefits from the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario through one or more of their programs. These programs are designed to support individuals and businesses specifically during the COVID‑19 crisis. Eligibility information is available through the website for each program.
Temporary adjustments to LAO’s change of solicitor policy during COVID-19
As part of our response to the COVID‑19 pandemic, Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) has recently made adjustments to its policy regarding change of solicitor, particularly for those accused still in the high‑risk situation of remaining in custody.
Consequently, LAO will automatically approve first requests for change of solicitor for those accused in custody. There is no effective start date for this, and these changes will apply regardless of when the application was made.
Big Case Management (BCM) cases will not be included in this temporary change.
Starting August 14, 2020, on Mondays and Fridays, through the end of October, LAO counsel will act as agents for private bar lawyers with matters in the Superior Court of Justice’s 361 University Avenue practice court in Toronto, and can assist self-represented accused persons.
Providing live duty counsel legal advice for in-custody clients with upcoming court appearances and without legal representation for criminal matters, starting April 14, 2020. In-custody clients calling the dedicated in custody line will be connected directly with a local duty counsel.
A three-hour authorization is available to respond to June 2020 RAD requests for specific or updated submissions. Request yours on Legal Aid Online.
- Extending the date for completing the Lawyer’s Annual Self-report
Lawyers across Ontario may, temporarily, apply for legal aid on behalf of clients that are in custody, when clients cannot. This practice, already in effect at the Toronto South Detention Centre, is being expanded across the province during COVID‑19‑related disruptions. Apply with this simplified lawyer inmate request form.
Lawyers may apply for legal aid coverage on behalf of in-custody clients requesting temporary absence permits and other release remedies available at the federal and provincial levels. A new application form is available on our website.
LAO LAW has created a COVID-19 page, which contains relevant case law and legal information. Panel and staff lawyers can log in at research.legalaid.on.ca.
Panel and staff lawyers can subscribe to the Bottom Line newsletters by calling 416‑979‑1321, or by logging in to research.legalaid.on.ca and clicking on the Bottom Line link. Current issues are posted on the website and past issues are archived and searchable.
Encouraging lawyers and service providers to refrain from mailing original documents unless absolutely necessary, and instead do this electronically through Legal Aid Online. Exceptions may include cheques and other documentation.
For information on how LAO is helping our clients to access services during the COVID-19 crisis, visit the Update on our client services web page. This page is also being updated on a regular basis.