LASA, 2020 process updates for lawyers
Following the proclamation of the Legal Aid Services Act, 2020 (LASA, 2020), Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) has developed new Legal Aid Services Rules that now govern the administration of legal aid in the province. Along with the Legal Aid Services Rules are LASA, 2020 policies that provide direction and guidance for how the Legal Aid Services Rules will be applied.
Lawyers are expected to familiarize themselves with these LASA, 2020 policies and the process changes affecting the work that they do.
All roster members
Terminology update: Roster members
Under LASA, 2020, lawyers providing legal aid certificate services or per diem duty counsel services for LAO clients are referred to as “roster” (formerly, panel) members. For a complete list of terminology changes, please review the Legal Aid Services Act, 2020 and the Legal Aid Services Rules. As of Oct. 18, 2021, all panel lawyers were automatically transitioned to the LAO roster.
Lawyers are responsible for overseeing delegated tasks
Lawyers are responsible for all actions related to LAO certificate management and account submission undertaken by their staff members, and for adequately supervising any staff member involved in the process.
As a best practice, lawyers should personally review and acknowledge each client’s individual LAO certificate. However, if these responsibilities are delegated to support staff, they should document that the lawyer has reviewed the terms of the certificate with the included services authorized, declarations and undertakings, including indicating whether there was a prior retainer.
With respect to account submission, lawyers must review the online account and all attachments sent in support of the account including their detailed accounts, those of their agents, invoices of third party services providers and discretion letters prior to submitting an account. Where the preparation of the account, or part of the account is delegated, the lawyer must ensure that the person has been adequately trained and is identified in the online account, and must supervise the preparation and submission of the account.
Lawyers must notify LAO when seeking to be removed from record
Lawyers are now required to contact LAO prior to removing themselves from the record as per section 3(3)(e) of the new Legal Aid Services Rules. In addition, the removal no longer results in the cancellation of a certificate.
Lawyers should contact the district office which issued the certificate to provide notification of their intent to remove themselves from the record when acting on a legal aid certificate.
Where a lawyer did not have advance knowledge that they would be removed from the record, they must advise LAO immediately upon being removed, and provide details regarding the circumstances of their removal.
New timeline for certificates acknowledgement and expiry of unacknowledged certificates
A new timeline applies to the acknowledgement of certificates and the expiry of unacknowledged certificates.
Lawyers must confirm their decision to acknowledge or decline to acknowledge a certificate within 30 days, after which the client will be prompted to find another lawyer. Certificates that have not been acknowledged will expire after 90 days following the date they were issued. In some circumstances, LAO will extend an expired, unacknowledged certificate for up to an additional 90 days.
For more information, please review the following:
- Certificate reinstatement and extension
- Certificate acknowledgement
- Extension of unacknowledged certificate
Conflict of interest acknowledgement and disclosure
A lawyer must not represent a client under a certificate if there is a potential conflict of interest or if the lawyer’s prior personal or professional relationships, or actual, potential, or perceived financial or personal interests, would negatively affect their capacity to represent a client or create a perception of same.
For more information, please review: Representing co-accused and witnesses in criminal proceedings.
An individual seeking certificate services for which a merit assessment is required may first be issued a certificate to obtain a legal opinion as to the merits of an appeal or prerogative relief request. Where a client was provided legal aid services at the trial stage of a case, an opinion certificate will generally be issued to the lawyer who represented the client at trial (“trial counsel”) to provide a legal opinion as to the merits of appeal or review.
However, an opinion certificate may be issued to a roster member other than the trial counsel:
- at the client’s request
- where there is a conflict of interest
- where the grounds of appeal or prerogative relief may include ineffective assistance of counsel
- where the client was self-represented for the initial proceeding
For more information, please review: Eligibility for appellate matters and prerogative relief applications.
Clarification of policy refinement on shared parenting arrangements
If an individual seeking legal aid has a shared (at least 50% of the time) parenting arrangement, the dependent child or children will be included in the family unit.
For more information, please review: Dependent child.
Clarification of policy refinement on concurrent proceedings
If a client has an active certificate for legal aid services and needs a separate certificate for a new matter in the same area of law, the client must keep the same lawyer who accepted the active certificate unless specific circumstances apply (e.g. if the new matter takes place in a different jurisdiction).
For more information, please review: Concurrent proceedings.
Clarification of policy on online submission of certificate accounts
Lawyers are expected to familiarize themselves with the updated Policy, which explains LAO’s requirement for proof and justification.
For more information, please review: Submitting certificate accounts.
Medical reduction assessed at intake
Reduction of a legal aid applicant’s medical expenses will now be assessed at the initial stage of determining financial eligibility.
For more information, please review: Medical expense reduction to income.
New and updated roster membership policies and forms
Lawyers are expected to familiarize themselves with the new LASA, 2020 roster membership policies.
For more information, please review:
In addition, many Legal Aid Ontario forms have been updated to reflect the implementation of LASA, 2020. Please visit LAO’s Form library to access the most up-to-date version of all forms.
New service standards
In order to carry out its statutory mandate and to ensure LAO clients continue to receive high-quality legal aid services, LASA, 2020 sets out service standards applicable to all roster members.
For more information, please review the Legal Aid Service Standards (Schedule 1 of the Legal Aid Services Rules).
Requirements to notify LAO in certain circumstances
The rules under LASA, 2020 require lawyers to notify LAO where the lawyer:
- Has a change to their contact information;
- Is subject to a conduct or capacity proceeding before any Law Society;
- Is subject to practise restrictions or a change in status at the Law Society of Ontario;
- Is charged with a criminal offence; or
- Intends to stop taking new legal aid clients for a period of more than 60 days.
Notification should be sent to the district office where the lawyer primarily practices, and cc’d to email@example.com.
For more information, please review the Legal Aid Services Rules (Part 3 – Roster management, 31 – Notice to corporation).
Law Society of Ontario (LSO) status
Lawyers are reminded that, in order to provide legal aid services, they must hold a status of “In Private Practice” at the Law Society of Ontario. Lawyers are required to notify LAO if they hold a status other than “In Private Practice”. Lawyers who hold a status other than “In Private Practice” may be suspended on an administrative basis from the legal aid roster until their LSO status is corrected. LAO may withhold payment or recover funds paid for services provided while the lawyer held an LSO status other than “In Private Practice.”
For more information, please review the Legal Aid Services Rules (Part 3 – Roster Management, Rules 31 and 34).
Reminder – information requests
LAO may, at any time, require a lawyer to provide information and documents as specified by LAO. The lawyer shall provide LAO with the required information and documents in the form and manner, and within the timelines, specified.
For more information, please review the Legal Aid Services Rules (Part 3 – Roster management, 30 – Requirement to provide information and documents).
General billing rule and financial benefit
Lawyers are expected to familiarize themselves with the general billing rule regarding payments to roster members.
A lawyer shall not provide or arrange for the provision of one or more legal aid services to a legally-aided client in such a manner that would result, directly or indirectly, in a financial benefit to the lawyer unless the manner in which the services were provided may reasonably be considered to have been undertaken or arranged primarily in the best interest of the legally aided client rather than for the financial benefit to the lawyer.
For more information, please review the Legal Aid Services Rules (Part 3 – Roster management, 66 – General billing).
Lawyers must submit request for subsequent representation
Lawyers who previously provided duty counsel services to an individual and who wish to subsequently represent that individual in the same matter other than in their capacity as duty counsel are required to submit a request and obtain approval from the director general.
The subsequent representation request form is available in the Forms library under “Duty Counsel Program”.
For more information, please review: Representation where roster member previously provided duty counsel services.
Delivery of documents and deemed delivery timelines
LAO communicates with lawyers, and now clients, mainly through the online lawyer and client portals. Lawyers are obliged to check their online correspondence regularly and respond promptly where a response is required. For added convenience, lawyers may sign up to be notified by email and/or SMS when new correspondence has been sent.
LAO can track portal correspondence and ascertain when it has been opened. LAO considers documents to have been delivered according to the timelines set out below.
A document sent from LAO by:
- Registered or regular mail to the lawyer’s address in LAO Records is considered delivered seven calendar days after it is mailed.
- Email or fax is considered delivered on the next calendar day.
- Uploads to the lawyers’ portal are considered delivered the next calendar day.
Deemed delivery timelines apply to both clients and lawyers.
Lawyers are reminded that they are obliged to update LAO immediately with any address or contact changes through their online portal, and to monitor their portal regularly, as this is LAO’s primary method of communication.
For more information, please review the Legal Aid Services Rules (Part 6 – Delivery of documents Rule).
Family law roster
Modifications to the child protection certificate services
A duty counsel referral is required before a certificate can be issued if:
- an individual initiates an openness or status review application or
- a children’s aid society or a child protection authority serves a status review application seeking to withdraw its involvement.
For more information, please review: Eligibility for child protection law services.
Process update regarding payments of court costs against client
Court costs awarded against a legally aided client are the responsibility of the client. In rare and limited circumstances, on application by the client or the party to whom the court costs are owed, LAO, in its discretion, may pay some or all of the court costs on behalf of the client. Such applications must be made in writing to LAO.
For more information, please review: Orders and settlements in respect of court costs.