Criminal law standards

The following are Legal Aid Ontario’s (LAO) mandatory requirements for authorization to provide criminal legal aid services:

Minimum experience

(1) Every lawyer shall have the following minimum experience to provide criminal legal aid services::

  1. A minimum of 15 completed criminal law files in the previous year, including at least three contested trials, preliminary inquiries or appeals; or
  2. A minimum of 20% of practice concentration in criminal law over the previous 2 years and on an ongoing basis.

Note: An applicant who has been certified as a specialist in criminal law by the Law Society of Ontario shall be deemed to meet the above standard.

Equivalencies

(2) Notwithstanding the above minimum requirements, a director general shall have the authority to recognize experience that is equivalent to, or exceeds the standard, on the basis of the following:

  1. The applicant has recognized expertise and substantial recent involvement in criminal law, as determined by the director general.

Exemptions

(3) Notwithstanding the above minimum requirements, an applicant may request from an director general an exemption from the minimum experience standard. An director general shall have the authority to grant an exemption on the basis of the following:

  1. The applicant is employed and supervised by a lawyer authorized to provide criminal legal aid services; or
  2. The applicant has recognized criminal law expertise demonstrated by recent experience in teaching criminal law, and possesses the required practical skills related to the practice of criminal law, as determined by the director general; or
  3. The applicant has had substantial experience as criminal court duty counsel as determined by the director general; or
  4. The applicant has had substantial articling experience with a recognized criminal law practitioner as determined by the director general; or
  5. For lawyers new to the practice of criminal law, the applicant shall sign an agreement to:
    1. acquire the minimum related experience within two years; and
    2. attend training courses as required by the director general; and
    3. utilize mentoring for a period of time determined by the director general, by a criminal law practitioner approved by the director general.

Mandatory professional development

(1) Every lawyer authorized to provide criminal legal aid services shall complete annually a minimum of six hours of continuing legal education (CLE) in criminal law, which shall consist of any of the following:

  1. Attending or teaching legal education programs provided by LAO, the Law Society of Ontario, the Ontario Bar Association, the Criminal Lawyers’ Association, the Advocates’ Society, any county or district law or criminal lawyers’ association, commercial programs; or
  2. Viewing or auditing CLE program materials, videos or recordings produced by any of the above associations.

Note: An applicant who has been certified as a specialist in criminal law by the Law Society of Ontario shall be deemed to meet the above standard.

Equivalencies

(2) Notwithstanding the above minimum requirements, a director general shall have the authority to recognize professional development that is equivalent to, or exceeds the standard, on the basis of the following:

  1. Teaching or writing published materials on criminal law; or
  2. Providing criminal law mentoring in a structured mentoring program established by LAO; or
  3. Having recognized expertise and substantial recent involvement in criminal law, as determined by the director general.

Authorization to provide criminal legal aid services

To be authorized to provide criminal legal aid services, applicants shall sign an agreement to comply with the standards set out by LAO for lawyers authorized to provide criminal legal aid services.

Consideration of local conditions

The criminal law standards shall apply across the province. In response to director general’ concerns regarding the need to ensure an adequate supply of lawyers to serve clients’ needs, the standards may be applied in a flexible way if deemed necessary in consideration of the following local conditions:

  1. a shortage of lawyers in the area willing to do criminal certificate work; or
  2. the director general deems it necessary in order to meet current or future needs.

In the interest of ensuring quality service, a director general shall have the discretion to require an applicant to enhance his/her knowledge of criminal law through professional development and/or being mentored, as deemed appropriate.


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