Legal Aid Ontario goes paperless in courthouses

Published: October 24, 2016

Whenever you visit a lawyer, a lot of paperwork is always involved: every lawyer has to complete and then update many forms, often repeatedly, about every client. Plus, if you go to court, you may have to talk to different Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) lawyers and other staff, and they often have to fill in fresh paperwork, from scratch.

That is all about to change.

By the end of 2017, LAO lawyers and staff at criminal courts throughout Ontario will switch from paper to wireless-enabled laptops loaded with LAO’s innovative new Duty Counsel Services Worksheet.

LAO staff will be able to efficiently review your legal history on the worksheet, quickly ask for updates, and record the latest information in real time. The information is automatically uploaded to LAO’s database to keep it up-to-date and to make sure the worksheet can efficiently provide all of the relevant facts for your every court appearance and adjournment.

Enormous benefits to clients

“Instead of waiting while staff asks them for and writes down their name, address, date of birth, legal history and information about their current situation, our clients can now tell their story just once,” explains Chris Bennett, Director, Corporate Services Planning and Strategic Initiatives.

“The worksheet is always up-to-date. So clients avoid the frustration of repeating the same facts about themselves to multiple service providers every time they come to court – giving them faster access to justice. Every encounter with LAO staff will advance a client’s legal matter.”

Province-wide deployment is beginning

LAO has been piloting the Duty Counsel Services Worksheet at seven locations since 2012. The pilot is now complete, and the worksheet is supporting clients, in English only at present, at the courts that were testing it in Windsor, Barrie (and satellites), Oshawa, 311 Jarvis in Toronto, Brockville, Sudbury and Timmins.

The system will be rolled out to up to another 15 more courthouses, starting in November 2016, with the goal of full deployment, in English and French, by December 2017.