Information for lawyers

Mentoring opportunities at Legal Aid Ontario

Lawyers can benefit from a number of LAO mentorship opportunities. A summary of these is listed here:

Second Chair Program

Directed exclusively at private bar lawyers who are working on LAO-funded cases, the Second Chair program allows new or mid-career lawyers to benefit from the knowledge and experience of more experienced or senior lawyers. One lawyer serves as the “second chair” on a case, providing new or mid-career lawyers with an opportunity to obtain hands-on training from more experienced or senior counsel.

The Second Chair program was launched in 2014, and is administered by LAO’s Policy & Strategic Research department. It is the only mentorship program offered by LAO that provides compensation.

There are two types of Second Chair opportunities:

Case-by-case stream:

Where either the mentee or mentor lawyer is working on, and requires assistance for, a particularly interesting legal aid case which is also a good learning opportunity.

Pre-approved mentor stream:

Senior lawyers (mentors) may obtain approval for a pre-determined number of mentoring hours each fiscal year, which can be used for different legal aid cases and/or to mentor different junior lawyers.

Download the pre-approved mentor application form here.

Questions?

Email secondchair@lao.on.ca.

General information is available here.

LAO LAW Case-by-Case Mentorship Program

The Case-by-Case Mentorship Program is administered by LAO LAW.

LAO LAW has created an approved list of mentors who provide advice via email to certificate lawyers who have questions regarding practice and certificate matters. Questions submitted electronically are fielded through LAO LAW, who will contact lawyers on the approved list of mentors to ensure availability.

Questions will be forwarded to mentors on a rotating basis, to avoid excessive demand on individual mentor’s time.

Lawyers wishing to access this service must log in to LAO LAW’s website, where they will be provided with a response and advice within 48 hours.

Note that while LAO LAW’s services are provided free of charge, lawyers accessing the services must be registered with LAO and be representing a client using a legal aid certificate.

Access LAO LAW’s online resources, including the Case-by-case Mentorship program here.

Questions?

Lawyers may contact LAO LAW by:

  • Phone: 416 979-1321/toll-free 1-800-265-1392
  • Fax: 416 979-8946
  • Email: laolaw@lao.on.ca

Mentorships for LAO lawyer panels

The following mentorships for LAO lawyer panels are administered by the director general in the district where a panel lawyer practices.

One-on-one mentoring

One-on-one mentorship is relatively informal and LAO expects the scope of the mentor-mentee relationship to be agreed upon and structured by the mentors and mentees. LAO has developed a tip sheet to assist with defining the scope of the relationship, which is available here.

One-on-one mentoring can be arranged through the district offices. Some maintain a local roster of mentors who have been approved, in advance, by the director general. In districts where a pre-approved list of mentors does not exist, the mentee may identify a mentor and submit the details to the director general for approval. If a mentee is having difficulty identifying a potential mentor, the district office may be able to assist. Mentors who provide one-on-one mentoring do so on a volunteer basis.

Mentors and mentees who are participating in one-on-one mentorship may be asked to sign a Mentoring Acknowledgment/Agreement, which should be submitted to the appropriate district office.

Individuals wishing to participate in LAO's one-on-one mentoring program should contact their district office. Contact information for each district is available here.

Mentoring agreement or agreement to acquire experience for new panel lawyers

Lawyers who wish to join an LAO certificate panel, but do not meet the requisite panel standards (for example, junior lawyers who have not practiced for the required number of years) may seek conditional acceptance to the panel, provided the lawyer meets certain conditions. For example, the lawyer must agree to be mentored by a more senior panel lawyer who has been approved by the district's director general.

The goal is to ensure that the lawyer gains experience and familiarity with LAO's processes and procedures. The signed Mentoring Agreement or Agreement to Acquire Experience should be provided to the appropriate district office.

Lawyers may be asked to sign a Mentoring Agreement written by the district, or an Agreement to Acquire Experience to enter into a mentoring relationship with a lawyer who has been in practice for five years or more, and is a member in good standing of LAO's panel.

In some districts, the mentee can use a list of pre-approved mentors available at the district office to identify a mentor. In districts where a pre-approved list of mentors does not exist, the mentee may identify a mentor and submit the details to the director general for approval. If a mentee is having difficulty identifying a potential mentor, the district office may be able to assist.

New lawyers applying to the panel must complete the application and forward it to the regional manager of legal services.

More information on panel standards can be found here.

Shadowing opportunities for new duty counsel panel lawyers

Lawyers interested in joining the duty counsel panel may take advantage of opportunities to shadow experienced duty counsel to gain an understanding of the pace and nature of duty counsel work. These opportunities will be identified by and coordinated with the district director general or the local supervisory duty counsel.

Lawyers wishing to join the duty counsel panel must apply to the manager of duty counsel services or the relevant supervisory duty counsel.

More information about the duty counsel panel is available here.