Accounts & billing

Alternative fee arrangements program

An Alternative Fee Arrangement (AFA) is a pilot project that offers an alternative to hourly billing for lawyers or law firms.

As part of this agreement, LAO provides you or your firm with the security of regular, agreed-upon monthly payments over an agreed-upon timeframe, generally, a year. In exchange, you or your firm manages a predetermined number and range of legal aid services for our clients over that same timeframe.

AFAs can be used in all areas of law and may also include per diem duty counsel work performed by you and your firm.

How an AFA contract works

  • Each individual contract specifies a range and type of legal aid service that you or your firm will be required to accept and/or close during the term of the contract.
  • The number, mix and range of yearly services in an AFA vary from one participant to another.
  • All legal aid services are included in the AFA payment with two exceptions: fees paid to area committee members and certificates issued pursuant to court orders (Protocol Cases).
  • LAO does not refer clients to you; under an AFA, you still get your own clients who are eligible for legal aid services. You meet regularly with a case manager to evaluate the arrangement.

How lawyers/law firms get paid under an AFA

  • Your payment under an AFA contract is based on your historical billing practices for fees and disbursements.
  • You will be paid in 12 monthly installments (plus HST) and the initial monthly payment is made at the beginning of the month following the AFA start date.
  • You will have regular meetings with the director general to determine if the service levels are being met. If necessary, the contract can be modified to reflect changes in your practice.
  • Prior to the anniversary of the AFA term, we will review the contract with you and based on the number of services compared to the agreed-upon volume of services, LAO may provide additional payment or adjust the amount for future AFA payments.
  • LAO may pay any unusual expenses, such as large appeal transcripts, outside the AFA.

Here’s an example of payments under an AFA:

A lawyer is a sole practitioner who practices primarily criminal law and over the last few years has closed 25 certificates and performed 150 hours per diem duty counsel. He/she billed LAO approximately $60,000 / year for all fees and disbursements. Under an AFA, instead of varying payments based on accounts submitted, the lawyer is paid $5,000 monthly. Accounts submitted are for data purposes to confirm that 25 cases were closed and 150 duty counsel hours were provided under the AFA.

Scenario A: cash flow under tariff shows a highly variable monthly income depending on the number of accounts submitted each month. Scenario B: cash flow in an AFA shows regular monthly income averaged out over the same time period.