Minimum experience requirements
Legal Aid Ontario’s (LAO) minimum experience requirements outline the legal experience that a prospective roster member must have before joining LAO’s roster of lawyers.
Read the full document outlining our minimum experience requirements.
LAO’s minimum experience requirements were developed after extensive consultation with the bar and other justice system stakeholders, and they are in place to ensure that LAO’s roster lawyers provide high-quality legal aid services as set out in the Legal Aid Services Act, 2020.
The specific requirements that a roster member must meet depend on the area of law in which they provide legal aid services. Our minimum experience requirements currently apply to those providing legal aid certificate services in the following areas:
- Criminal law
- Family law
- Immigration and refugee law
- Mental health law (CCB)
- Child Protection Law (CYFSA)
In addition, there are separate minimum experience requirements which apply to those providing legal aid duty counsel services in the following areas:
- Criminal (Adult and Youth)
- Domestic Violence
Generally, our minimum experience requirements require prospective roster members to
- have a certain amount of experience in specific types of legal matters or proceedings
- review materials provided by LAO
- complete a certain number of hours of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) each year in each area of law they practice in
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LAO tracks roster lawyer experience using an annual self-report. This is a report that LAO requires all lawyers to complete about themselves in order to maintain their continued standing on LAO’s roster and confirm ongoing compliance with the minimum experience requirements.
On it, lawyers confirm that they continue to meet the requirements of the standards, i.e., they have:
- attained the required minimum amount of related experience for continued standing and
- completed their annual professional development, as required by the minimum experience requirements during the previous calendar year.
For more information about the self-report, please visit our lawyer’s annual self-report webpage.
Meeting the minimum experience requirements and gaining authorization to provide legal aid services
To encourage new lawyers to join our roster and gain experience, LAO offers prospective roster members authorization to provide legal aid services as they work towards meeting the minimum experience requirements. A roster member’s type of authorization to provide legal services will depend on whether they meet the requirements.
There are two types of authorization:
You meet the minimum experience requirements upon applying to join the roster. You have full authorization to provide legal aid services in your area(s) of law.
You do not meet the minimum experience requirements upon applying to join the roster. You have conditional authorization to provide legal aid services in your area(s) of law provided that you meet the minimum experience requirements within 24 months of being granted conditional authorization. A further discretionary conditional status of 12 months (36 months total) is available.
Conditional authorization requires lawyers to meet the minimum experience requirements within 24 months. Local conditions or specific areas of law may also require additional conditions, such as mentorship or training. These additional conditions will be discussed with prospective roster members upon application.
Duty counsel have additional considerations for their authorization process, and you can learn more by visiting our duty counsel authorization process webpage. Authorization to provide duty counsel services may be limited based on local conditions.
For a complete understanding of authorizations, please see our process maps for gaining authorization or read the full minimum experience requirements document.
- What type of experience does LAO consider when evaluating whether a lawyer meets the minimum experience requirements?
LAO only considers experience gained as a lawyer practicing in Ontario and licensed by the Law Society of Ontario. LAO does not consider experience gained as a summer student, articling student, volunteer, paralegal, or immigration consultant. In rare cases, LAO may consider experience gained practicing in another province as a licensee of that province’s law society.
- Are clients or the public advised of my conditional status?
No, conditional status is a status internal to LAO, and it is not disclosed to clients or the public. In rare cases, where conditions are placed on a roster member that would affect their ability to act on specific files, LAO may be required to disclose this status to clients.
- If I am admitted conditionally, how do I notify LAO once I meet the minimum experience requirements?
Roster members can notify LAO that they meet the minimum experience requirements and wish to have the conditional designation removed through their annual self-report. Each year, LAO typically opens the mandatory self-reporting period from early January to March 31. Outside the self-reporting period, roster members can notify LAO via email at email@example.com that they meet the minimum experience requirements.
- Why isn’t conditional authorization available for Extremely Serious Matters (Criminal) files?
The nature, complexity, and associated costs of Extremely Serious Matters files necessitate experienced counsel to ensure LAO’s clients receive high-quality legal aid services in accordance with the Legal Aid Services Act, 2020.
- Once I meet the minimum experience requirements, do I still have to report annually to LAO?
Yes, the annual self-report is mandatory for all roster members who have been a member of the roster for at least 12 months.
- Can provide legal aid services under conditional authorization in more than one area of law?
Yes. Prospective roster members or existing roster members seeking to add a new area of law can request conditional authorization for each area of law. Conditional membership is attached to the area of law itself.
- Are there any other requirements related to conditional roster membership?
Every roster member is required to complete three hours of accredited Continuing Professional Development in each area of law they are authorized to provide legal aid services in.
- Are any other conditions applicable to roster membership?
Yes, notwithstanding that a roster member meets all minimum experience requirements, LAO may place additional conditions on any roster member as necessary. These may include things like mentorship and viewing or attending training. Decisions on these types of conditions are made in consideration of local conditions.
- Aside from the minimum experience requirements, what other requirements must roster lawyers meet?
Roster members must meet all the obligations set out in the Legal Aid Services Act, 2020 as well as the Rules made thereunder. Some of the requirements include maintaining a status of “In Private Practice” at the Law Society of Ontario (meaning only lawyers licensed to practice law in Ontario may provide legal aid services); maintaining current liability coverage and providing releases of information to LAO. Roster members must also have an office or established practice in the geographic area in which they intend to practice.
In addition, certain individuals may be ineligible to become a roster lawyer. We encourage you to review the Rules for further detail.