COVID-19: Ongoing list of supports for lawyers
Updated: October 18, 2021
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
When submitted late as a result of the COVID‑19 pandemic, billing deadlines are extended for accounts due after March 16, 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.
Temporarily suspending collection on recoveries identified in audits and investigations.
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
Legal aid applicants, new and existing, must once again sign a section 47 direction regardless of a COVID accommodation. If an applicant did not complete a section 47 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.
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 September 30, 2021.
For anyone who is not Indigenous but experiencing domestic violence, eligibility requirements will no longer be waived, but the financial eligibility threshold has been increased temporarily to:
|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.
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.
Healthcare workers permanent residence pathway
Refugee claimants who work as frontline healthcare workers may now be able to get help from Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) to apply for permanent residence.
Additional hours to prepare and file new basis of claim forms (until September 30, 2021)
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
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
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.
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. 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.
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 regularly.