Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) provides legal help in English and French for financially eligible low‑income Ontarians. Since forming under the Legal Aid Services Act of 1998 (LASA, 1998), LAO has become a vital part of a strong justice system, providing high-quality legal services in:
- family law
- refugee and immigration law
- criminal law
- mental health law
LAO also provides funding to 72 independent legal clinics and seven student legal services organizations throughout the province who specialize in clinic law.
Our services include:
- a toll-free telephone line that offers 20 minutes of free legal advice for family law matters
- same‑day courthouse services including duty counsel (lawyers), paralegals, and court workers
- staff lawyers who represent clients
- representation by a private lawyer through our certificate program
- web-based information and referrals
As of Oct. 18, 2021, the new Legal Aid Services Act (LASA, 2020) governs legal aid in Ontario. LASA, 2020 maintains LAO’s mandate to provide high-quality legal aid services to low-income clients and will make it possible for LAO to do more, while increasing our efficiency and ensuring our long-term sustainability.
A key feature of the new law is that the management of legal aid changes from a regulatory framework to a rules-based one, meaning updates to operational processes are possible without changing the law. This change will allow LAO to keep up with the needs of Ontarians and the technological advances that we now take for granted.
Visit LASArules2020.ca to learn more about the management and administration of legal aid.
LAO remains independent from, but accountable to, the Government of Ontario. Alongside service providers, including the private bar and community legal clinics, we continue to provide legal services in the areas listed above and promote access to justice for low-income Ontarians by:
- providing consistently high-quality legal aid services in a cost-effective and efficient manner
- encouraging and facilitating flexibility and innovation in the provision of legal aid services
- identifying, assessing and recognizing the diverse legal needs of low-income individuals and of disadvantaged communities in Ontario
- providing legal aid services to low-income individuals through a corporation that will operate independently, but within a framework of accountability, to the Government of Ontario for the expenditure of public funds
In fulfilling this mandate, LAO is committed to providing services that recognize the importance of diversity, access, equity, creativity, and quality.
Read our Statement of Principles to learn more about the values and commitments that have guided LAO’s strong tradition of service and continue to form the foundation of our work.