COVID-19: Ongoing list of supports for lawyers
Updated: November 18, 2022
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
As of Jan. 1, 2022
Certificate accounts will again be subject to late billing policies. The exception for accounts billed late where you have advised it is due to the COVID-19 pandemic will end. The exception will still apply to accounts with billing dates between Mar. 16 and Dec. 31, even if they are submitted after Dec. 31, 2021.
Example: If a certificate issued on June 19, 2019, the services provided between that date and the first anniversary date of June 19, 2020 would have a billing deadline of Dec. 19, 2020. These services, if submitted late, would be subject to the COVID exemption if you advised that the account was submitted late due to COVID-19.
Services provided on that certificate from June 20, 2020 to June 19, 2021 would be due on Dec. 19, 2021 and they would be subject to the COVID exemption as well if submitted late due to COVID-19.
Please note that the exemption does not apply to accounts on certificates issued on July 1, 2020 or later as the first account would be due on Jan. 1, 2022.
As of Dec. 31, 2021:
Block fee eligible certificates will resume being paid as block fees unless the matters are:
- Set down for trial
- Excluded processes
- Excluded offences
- Unresolved or resolved in the absence of the acknowledging lawyer or agent authorized to provide LAO services. (Please select “not resolved – did not attend at resolution” on account.)
The only exception is when an articling student attends for the withdrawal or stay of all charges when the Crown agreed to this in advance.
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.
Temporarily suspending collection on recoveries identified in audits and investigations.(Collection on recoveries resumes November 23, 2020).
Certificates will either be cancelled or reassessed for those that started from March 1, 2020 to May 2, 2021 for clients who:
- are experiencing or have experienced domestic abuse; and
- own property
LAO has sent a letter to clients who own property advising that they will be asked to enter a contribution agreement by way of a lien.
Services done from the dates of the certificate started to when it was cancellation will be honored. Please submit your bill for final payment.
Increased compensation for bail hearings for block fee and tariff matters in recognition of longer bail hearings
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
LAO has resumed its financial eligibility requirements for certificate applications for the following applicants:
- Indigenous persons who identify as victims of domestic violence
- Indigenous families engaged in child protection matters
- Detained psychiatric patients
- Immigration detainees
Existing certificates that were issued on or before Nov. 18 will continue. Certificates issued to Indigenous persons who identify as victims of domestic violence and families engaged in child protection matters will not be subject to routine financial reassessment.
After Nov. 18, the eligibility of the above applicants for certificates will be determined on the basis of LAO’s Rules and Policies under the Legal Aid Services Act 2020 (LASA 2020).
Provide coverage for the following matters:
- Responding to applications in Superior Court for treatment pending appeals from CCB decisions
- Substitute decision-makers for end-of-life decisions
- Additional hours for refugee hearings. The additional two hours for refugee hearing preparation will remain available only for hearings scheduled to take place on or before March 31, 2023.
Legal aid applicants, new and existing, must once again sign a section 13 (formerly section 47) direction regardless of a COVID accommodation. If an applicant did not complete a section 13 direction during the COVID pandemic, LAO continues to secure its interest through the statutory charge on settlements and judgements. Statutory regulations allow LAO to waive recovery, while counsel or clients may request waivers in writing from our Lawyer Services and Payments department.
Judge-Led Intensive Case Management Courts
Accused people without retained counsel whose matters are more than twelve months old and who have had their cases adjourned to Judge-Led Intensive Case Management Courts do not need to be financially tested.
OTHER LEGAL AID SERVICES
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 for Indigenous people
- Psychiatric patients seeking assistance for CCB and ORB matters
- Indigenous 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.
During the COVID-19 crisis, LAO has waived all legal and financial eligibility for people who identify as Indigenous and who are domestic violence survivors. This will be in effect until further notice.
Starting Jan. 31, 2022, we will be resuming pre-pandemic financial certificate eligibility criteria for non-Indigenous people experiencing domestic violence.
Check the table below to see if you qualify:
|Number of family members||The amount of money your family makes in a year|
Government of Canada and Government of Ontario temporary benefits
If you or your business has been affected by COVID‑19, eligible service providers 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.
Lawyer assisted applications
Lawyers may apply for legal aid on behalf of clients charged with a criminal offense. For in-custody applications, LAO has temporarily expanded the application to include charges which may be eligible for big case management.
For in-custody applications, fill out and submit the Lawyer Inmate Request Form for Legal Aid Service.
To apply for out of custody applicants, please fill out and submit the lawyer assisted application for adult criminal court proceedings or the lawyer assisted application for youth criminal court proceedings.
Additional application forms for child protection proceedings, family law proceedings (domestic violence), and refugee proceedings will be coming soon.
Judge-led Intensive Case Management Courts certificates
Judge-Led Intensive Case Management Courts (JICMC) certificates are time-limited and meant to help the Ontario Court of Justice as it addresses the backlog due to the COVID‑19 pandemic in case management court.
Immigration Detention Representation Program
Legal Aid Ontario has launched a new program that uses both private practice and LAO staff lawyers to provide legal representation to all unrepresented immigration detainees in their detention review hearings.
Duty counsel for in-custody client with upcoming court appearances
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.
LAO assistance in Toronto practice court
On Mondays, 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.
Additional hours for representation before the RPD for hearings scheduled to take place between July 20, 2020 and September 30, 2021.
Changes to our standards for the 2020 reporting year (Jan. 1, 2020 to Dec. 31 2020) for lawyers most affected by the pandemic.
Increased tariff hours to prepare for subsequent detention review hearings, as of Jan. 1, 2021
LAO LAW has created a COVID‑19 page, which contains relevant case law and legal information. Lawyers can log in at research.legalaid.on.ca.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.
Legal Aid Online
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.