Duty counsel standards

Probationary period

Every applicant to provide duty counsel panel services shall be subject to a three‑month probationary period, at the end of which the director general, supervisory duty counsel or manager of legal services shall provide the applicant with performance feedback. The director general, supervisory duty counsel, or manager of legal services shall determine whether to authorize the applicant to provide duty counsel services or extend the probation for an additional three months.

Performance feedback shall cover the following areas:

  • Substantive law; and
  • Legal procedure; and
  • Client relations; and
  • Duty counsel processes, procedures and policies; and
  • Performance in court

Shadowing

Every applicant to provide duty counsel services shall be required to shadow an experienced duty counsel for a period to be specified by the director general, supervisory duty counsel or manager of legal services.

Minimum related experience requirements for court duty counsel

The following minimum related experience is required to provide duty counsel services:

A. Criminal Court Adult and Criminal Court Youth Duty Counsel

Minimum related experience for criminal court Adult and criminal court Youth duty counsel shall include:

  1. the completion of a minimum of three contested judicial interim release hearings each year; and
  2. the completion of a minimum of three guilty pleas or criminal trials each year; and
  3. the completion of a minimum of three criminal sentencing hearings each year; and

Applicants failing to meet the minimum related experience requirements may be authorized to provide legal aid services conditionally.

Notwithstanding the above, an applicant may request of a director general, supervisory duty counsel or manager of legal services an exemption from the minimum related experience standard so as to be admitted conditionally. A director general, supervisory duty counsel or manager of legal services shall have the authority to grant an exemption, or partial exemption, and admit the applicant conditionally based on the following considerations:

  1. Substantial involvement in criminal law; and/or
  2. Experience as a criminal law duty counsel.
  3. For new calls to the bar:
    1. rotation as an articled student in the criminal law field, and/or
    2. undertaking to train in criminal law as required by director general.

B. Family Court Duty Counsel and Advice Lawyer‑FLIC

Minimum related experience for family court duty counsel & Advice Lawyer‑FLIC shall include:

  1. representation at a minimum of two family law trials or contested family law matters each year; and
  2. representation at a minimum of two child protection hearings each year; and
  3. representation at a minimum of two Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Enforcement Act enforcement proceedings each year; and
  4. the preparation of a minimum of two family law applications & pleadings each year; and
  5. representation at a minimum of two family law motions without notice under the applicable Rules, in situations of urgency or hardship, or involving immediate danger, each year; and

Applicants failing to meet the minimum related experience requirements may be authorized to provide legal aid services conditionally.

Notwithstanding the above, an applicant may request of a director general, supervisory duty counsel or manager of legal services an exemption from the minimum related experience standard so as to be admitted conditionally. A director general, supervisory duty counsel or manager of legal services shall have the authority to grant an exemption, or partial exemption, and admir the applicant conditionally based on the following considerations:

  1. substantial involvement in family law; and/or
  2. experience as a family law duty counsel; and/or
  3. with new calls to the bar:
    1. rotation as an articled student in the family law field, and/or
    2. undertaking to train in an area of family law as required by director general.

Undertaking to comply

All duty counsel shall undertake to comply with the specific requirements for duty counsel set out by LAO.

Consideration of local conditions by director general, supervisory duty counsel or manager of legal services in applying the standards

The duty counsel standards shall apply across the province. Director general, supervisory duty counsel or manager of legal services may apply the standards in a flexible way and admit a lawyer conditionally if deemed necessary, in consideration of the following local conditions:

  1. a shortage of lawyers in the area willing to do duty counsel work; or
  2. the directors general, supervisory duty counsel or manager of legal services deems it necessary in order to meet current or future needs; or

Notwithstanding that an applicant meets the minimum requirements, a director general, supervisory duty counsel or manager of legal services may refuse to authorize a lawyer to provide duty counsel services if local demands are met.

A director general, supervisory duty counsel or manager of legal services may contact the relevant LAO Provincial Manager of the Duty Counsel Program to seek advice regarding exemptions.

Supports for duty counsel

  1. LAO shall administer the supervisory duty counsel program throughout Ontario.
  2. LAO shall provide and maintain a comprehensive Duty Counsel Manual available on the LAO web site and provide research support through LAO LAW.
  3. LAO shall administer a Duty Counsel hotline through LAO LAW.

Forms