Minimum experience requirements for Family law

This page outlines Legal Aid Ontario (LAO)’s mandatory requirements to be authorized to provide family legal aid services.

Minimum experience

  1. Every lawyer shall have the following minimum experience to be authorized to provide familt legal aid services.

    1. Substantial involvement in a minimum of ten family law files in the previous year, including matters of custody and access or extended society care, child and spousal support, property, and divorce or
    2. A minimum of 20 per cent of practice concentration in family law in one or more of the above areas over the previous two years and on an ongoing basis.

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

Equivalencies

  1. 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 involvement in family law proceedings of extraordinary length or complexity or
    2. The applicant has had substantial experience as counsel for the Children’s Aid Society or for the Office of the Children’s Lawyer.

Exemptions

  1. Notwithstanding the above minimum requirements, an applicant may request, from a director general, an exemption from the minimum experience standard and be admitted conditionally. A director general shall have the authority to grant an exemption on the basis of the following:

    1. The applicant has had substantial experience as family court or Family Law Information Centre (FLIC) duty counsel as determined by the director general or
    2. The applicant is employed and supervised by a lawyer authorized to provide familt legal aid services or
    3. The applicant has had specialized practical training and education in fields related to family law, as determined by the director general or
    4. The applicant has recognized family law expertise demonstrated by recent experience in teaching family law, and possesses the required practical skills related to the practice of family law, as determined by the director general or
    5. The applicant has had substantial articling experience with a recognized family law practitioner, as determined by the director general or
    6. For lawyers new to the practice of family law, the applicant shall sign an agreement to:
      1. acquire the minimum experience within two years and
      2. attend training courses as may be required by the director general and
      3. be mentored for a period of time as deemed appropriate by the director general, by a lawyer approved by the director general.

        Please note: this mentoring is separate from the second chair program, which is a paid mentorship opportunity that allows for new or mid-career lawyers to benefit from the knowledge and experience of senior lawyers. More information about the second chair program is in our second chair program section.

Minumim experience requirements for child protection law

  1. Authorization to provide child protection legal aid services has the following additional requirements:

    1. The applicant shall have substantial experience in child protection proceedings in a minimum of 10 CYFSA files in the previous year, or a minimum of 20 per cent of practice concentration in child protection proceedings over the previous two years and on an ongoing basis, either representing parents, or as counsel for the Office of the Children’s Lawyer or that Children’s Aid Society.
  2. Notwithstanding the above minimum requirements, an applicant may request, from a director general, an exemption from the minimum experience standard to be admitted conditionally on the basis of the following:

    1. The applicant is employed and supervised by a lawyer authorized to provide child protection legal aid services or
    2. The applicant agrees to be mentored for a period of time, as deemed appropriate by the director general, by a lawyer authorized to provide child protection legal aid services in one or more CYFSA proceedings or
    3. The applicant shall agree to participate as a junior with an experienced lawyer authorized to provide child protection service in one or more CYFSA proceedings, as required by the director general.

Authorization to provide family law services

To be authorized to provide child protection services, applicants shall sign an agreement to comply with the standards set out by LAO for family lawyers.

Consideration of local conditions

  1. The standards may be applied in a flexible way to 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 family law certificate work or
    2. the director general deems it necessary in order to meet current orfuture needs.
  2. In the interest of ensuring quality service, a director general shall have the discretion to require an applicant to enhance his/her knowledge of family law through professional development and/or being mentored, as deemed appropriate.


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