Audit & Compliance Unit

Questions & answers

Find answers to some of the more commonly asked questions about Audit & Compliance. Have questions or need more information? Please feel free to contact us.

Q. What is Audit & Compliance?

Legal Aid Ontario (LAO)s Audit & Compliance Unit (ACU) ensures that accounts paid are valid and properly billed. Accounts that have already been paid will be chosen for audit.

Legal Aid Ontario is no longer examining accounts received through Legal Aid Online before they are paid, because this system detects many errors that were previously detected manually. Once you start using Legal Aid Online, most of your simple accounts that are billed within the tariff maximums will be paid automatically, without manual intervention.

During an audit, staff will examine your accounts using a process very similar to the line-by-line examination process we previously used. Bboth account details and invoices will be reviewed.

Following the audit of your account details, you will receive a notice informing you that your account has either passed the audit, or that it did not meet one or more of LAO's account requirements.

Q. What happened to Post-Payment Examination?

The new Audit & Compliance Unit (ACU) evolved out of the Post-Payment Examination (PPE) team. Like the previous group, our goal is to ensure lawyers are paid accurately through their use of correct billing procedures. While we still conduct random post-payment examinations, our mandate has expanded to include understanding common billing problems, improving billing procedures, and working with lawyers to better meet their billing needs.

Q. Why is LAO conducting audits of accounts?

Legal Aid Ontario is simplifying and streamlining the way we do business with lawyers who do legal aid work. Billing accounts using Legal Aid Online means the system automatically detects many of the errors that were previously detected manually, allowing accounts to be processed faster.

The analyst will perform the necessary number of examinations, to ensure that accounts paid are accurate and valid. In addition, we want to identify the types of errors that are made so that we can provide training and information materials to help you submit accounts quickly and accurately.

Q. Do I still have to submit account details with every certificate?

Starting January 1, 2011, lawyers using Legal Aid Online to submit accounts, or accounts submitted through e-billing or on paper will have to provide dockets and account details for all tariff accounts. Read more about submitting dockets.

Q. How long do I have to submit additional documentation for audit?

You have 15 calendar days from the date on the notice to submit your account for an audit.

Q. What happens if I miss the 15 day deadline?

If you do not submit your accounts for payment after the 15 calendar days, Legal Aid Ontario may:

  • Deduct fees and disbursements paid to the account from future payments;
  • Refer the account to the Investigations Department for review, which may lead to further action including suspension of your privileges to use Legal Aid Online to submit accounts and removal of your name from the legal aid panels.

Q. What if I can't submit my account details within the time allotted?

A lawyer may be granted an extension to provide documents where it is reasonable based on the scope and nature of the documents requested, and/or circumstances in relation to the lawyer's practice, or where other extraordinary circumstances exist. Call the Audit & Compliance Unit arrange an alternative date to submit your account details. The phone number is listed on the Audit & Compliance letter you received.

Q. How far back can you request acdditional documentation for an audit>

In general, we will select accounts within six months of the time they are paid, however, you must maintain detailed records of legal aid services provided on a certificate for at least six years after the end of the year in which the final account is submitted. This is one of the conditions in the general terms and conditions document that lawyers are required to sign to be on the legal aid panels. This requirement is no different than non-legal aid work in private practice, where lawyers have legal and regulatory obligations to retain documents that relate to client matters after the retainer has ended.

Q. What details are you looking for during a audit?

Records must contain details of the legal aid services provided on the certificate, including:

  • An itemized list of the services provided, in chronological order;
  • The dates and duration for all services, as well as the time of day for all services of a half an hour or more;
  • An itemized list of disbursements incurred and copies of the disbursement invoices of agents and other service providers;
  • A copy of any court order that relates to the services;
  • The account and related records of any lawyer or agent engaged under the certificate, certified by the lawyer or agent who was engaged; and,
  • Proof and justification of all the items included in the lawyer's accounts

Q. How is this different than what LAOs Investigations Department does?

The Investigations Department has traditionally conducted targeted detailed reviews of every account paid during a two-year period for a small group of lawyers. They check for overlapping times, billing in excess of 10 hours per day and other time discrepancies.

Q. What is Legal Aid Ontario's authority to conduct audits?

The Legal Aid Services Act sets out Legal Aid Ontario's authority to request information from the lawyer or service provider in support of the accounts submitted. Ontario Regulation 106/99 sets out the full details of what the lawyer is required to provide and the length of time the records must be maintained.

Read the full set of policies governing post payment audit(s).

Q. How will I find out the results of the audit?

You will receive a notice indicating that your account has passed, or that it did not meet one or more of LAO's account requirements.

Q. What happens if my account did not meet the requirements?

If your account details show that you were overpaid, LAO will deduct any applicable fees and disbursements paid on the account from future payments to you.

Depending on the type and nature of the error, you may also receive a request to provide additional documentation for additional accounts.

In cases where serious errors are found, the account may be referred to the Investigations department for review, which could lead to further action, including a targeted audit of other accounts. The results of this more detailed examination could lead to suspension of privileges to use Legal Aid Online to submit account, and removal of the lawyer's name from the legal aid panels.

Q. What if the examination shows I was underpaid?

Where additional money is owing to a lawyer, payment will be made directly into the lawyer's account.

The analyst will assess whether or not an adjustment is required in cases where the client has entered into a contribution agreement.

Q. What if I don't agree with the results of the post-payment audit?

You can appeal the results of the examination within 30 calendar days of the date of the notice you receive, by providing written reasons why you disagree with the results. For more information see the reconsideration/appeal policy.

Q. What if my account is audited and I realize that I had not billed for all fees or disbursements on the account?

You may submit a separate account through Legal Aid Online

Q. How do I contact post-payment examination>

You can contact us by email, or through the Lawyer Service Centre:

Telephone: 416 979-9934
Toll free: 1-866-979-9934
Fax: 416 979-7326