Careers at LAO

Questions and answers

Q. What are your areas of practice?

Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) serves low-income clients in areas of the refugee, criminal and family areas of law. Legal services in these areas as provided to client in three main ways:

  • Duty counsel are lawyers who assist unrepresented parties in criminal and family courts throughout the province by providing brief advice and representation. Some duty counsel are full-time LAO staff lawyers, and others are per diem private bar lawyers who work periodically as duty counsel.

  • The legal aid certificate program is a system whereby private bar lawyers assist legal aid clients who have been issued a legal aid certificate. LAO pays the lawyer's legal fees on behalf of the client, in accordance with a regulated legal aid tariff.

  • Legal services are provided through staff offices in refugee, family, and criminal law. LAO has one refugee law office in Toronto, three family law offices (Toronto, Thunder Bay and Ottawa), and three criminal law offices (Brampton, Barrie and Ottawa). These offices are staffed by full-time LAO lawyers.

In addition, staff lawyers at LAO's provincial office, and in some legal aid offices around the province, provide support to the organization and service providers in areas such as legal research, policy development, and corporate counsel.

Q. How are community legal clinics related to LAO?

LAO funds 76 clinics across the province, 18 of which are specialty legal clinics offering services to a particular cultural community or in a specific area of law. In addition, student legal clinics are housed in each of Ontarios six law schools.

Community legal clinics provide representation, public legal education, law reform and community development services to low-income individuals and groups within a defined geographical area. Social assistance and housing law are two key areas that clinics focus on.

Q. How do I apply for a job in a clinic?

A. As clinics are independent organizations, they hire law students separately. Most clinics send their job postings to law schools or to LAO, which are then posted on LAOs career page.

Q. What is LAO looking for in a candidate?

The most important thing that LAO looks for in candidates is a demonstrated interest in social justice or public interest work. That interest may be demonstrated through volunteer experience either at law school or in the community, prior work experience, or even in a persuasive cover letter that sets out why you are inclined towards this type of work.

Volunteer experience in the student legal aid clinic at your law school is considered a definite asset. However, LAO recognizes that not all students are able to have that opportunity, and acknowledges that other types of experiences can strongly reflect an interest in the type of work we do.

As with any job application and interview, demonstrate that you are familiar with what LAO does: do a bit of research by browsing the LAO website and by talking to legal aid lawyers.

Q. What can I expect in an interview?

An interview at LAO is a fairly formal process with a predictable, structured format. LAO interviews are meant to give you the opportunity to showcase your skills and interests, and for you in turn to become more familiar with what we can offer you.

Normally, a small hiring panel asks a series of standard questions, some of which are open-ended with the intention of getting a sense of your interests and skills. The questions seek to explore your knowledge of what we do and how our work fits into the justice system as a whole.

Interviews do not focus on substantive legal questions, so it will not be necessary to memorize the Criminal Code or crack open Supreme Court of Canada cases in order to be successful in the interview.

Q. What are my career prospects?

LAO's Lawyer Workforce Strategy (LWS) is meant to offer more than just a job to students and lawyers. LAO is seeking to develop a dynamic workforce with lawyers who develop skills in a number of our service lines. Lawyers are supported with orientation and continuing legal education programs, and training in areas such as practice management, project management, and finance. LAO is committed to developing a strong pool of legal aid service providers who will become the future leaders of the organization and legal specialists. Our lawyers will have a well-rounded view of the organization by gaining experience in a number of our service areas.

Lawyers are not hired to do one specific job. Rather, lawyers are hired with the intent that they will move throughout the organization to gain a wide range of skills, and exposure to many areas of practice. As lawyers develop, they may choose to enter a management stream, or to settle on a legal specialty. Regardless of position, LAO believes that we serve clients best and run the most effective and efficient legal aid system when all of our lawyers are knowledgeable of all of LAO's service lines.

Q. Are there any volunteer opportunities at LAO?

Yes. Pro Bono Students Canada partners with LAO to provide students with volunteer opportunities working with LAO's family law duty counsel in courthouses in Toronto, Brampton, Kingston and London. If you are interested in these volunteer opportunities, please contact your campus Pro Bono Students Canada representative.

LAO itself does not have a formal volunteer program. However, some students have found volunteer placements in community legal clinics by simply calling a specific clinic and asking for a volunteer opportunity.

Where can I get more information?

For more information, contact our Human Resources department at job.competitions@lao.on.ca.

For current summer and articling student opportunities, take a look at our current job postings.