Further to the editorial, “Crunching the numbers at LAO” on Feb. 13, it is important to emphasize that Legal Aid Ontario’s transformation has been ongoing since 2008.
It is based on making better use of technology, streamlining administration, expanding access for clients, and increasing value for taxpayers.
Recently, the auditor general observed that LAO’s long-term strategy was “well defined” and the organization “has moved to increase access to legal aid services beyond the issuing of certificates, such as through expanded use of duty counsel available at courthouses and through its new call centre.”
Some of the significant transformative changes to the legal aid program in Ontario include:
• Simplifying the legal aid application process to make it simpler and faster for clients to apply.
• Establishing a toll-free client service centre that connects callers to a variety of services, including legal information, referrals, legal aid applications, and criminal and family summary legal advice from a lawyer, in more than 200 languages.
• Opening 56 courthouse offices to provide easy access to legal aid services.
• Increased web resources.
• Opening six family law services centres across Ontario.
• Expanding family mediation services to provide more options to low-income Ontarians.
• Introducing family summary legal advice over the phone.
• Launching the family law information program.
• Creating a new complex-case rate and panel to help legal aid clients with serious and complicated matters retain quality legal representation.
• Introducing block fees to reduce red tape and make it simpler and faster for lawyers to get paid.
• Providing summary criminal legal advice over the phone.
• Launching LawFacts, an online public legal information resource for people with matters before the criminal courts.
• Enhancing duty counsel services.
• Introducing professional interpretation and translation services in more than 200 languages for community legal clinics.
• Establishing an innovation program to assist community clinics in developing and implementing new programs and service-delivery channels that expand client access and provide more effective use of funding.
Director of communications
Legal Aid Ontario