Information for lawyers

Interested in doing legal aid work?

Lawyers who represent legal aid clients must belong to the panel(s) for the type(s) of law they practice. The standards for each panel provide the minimum experience and professional development requirements that lawyers must meet. Panel standards help ensure that legal aid clients receive high-quality services.

Ongoing annual professional development is necessary to maintain panel membership.

Legal Aid Ontario’s panel standards were developed in consultation with:

  • members of the refugee, criminal and family bars
  • duty counsel
  • lawyers practising before the Consent and Capacity Board
  • judges
  • lawyers' associations
  • Law Society of Upper Canada

How to join a legal aid panel

Step one: Get started

Before you can do any paid work for Legal Aid Ontario, you must be accepted as a member of Legal Aid Ontario’s panel in your area(s) of law. In other words, you need to be empanelled:

  • in your area of law (the refugee panel has its own separate process.)
  • in the geographic area where you primarily carry on your law practice (if you practice in multiple cities, you must select one area as your home base)

In general, it takes three to six weeks in total to become empanelled (it may take longer to be accepted to the refugee panel).

To start the process, you need to meet all applicable panel standards, or meet exemption criteria. Please provide, and submit to your district office, the following documents, in person, by fax or by email:

Send your application to:

  • Essex, Lambton & Kent district office
    Includes: Kent county (Chatham), Lambton county (Sarnia), and Essex county (Windsor)
  • London district office
    Includes: Grey county (Owen Sound), Bruce county (Walkerton), Perth county (Stratford), Huron county (Goderich), Elgin county (St. Thomas), Middlesex county (London), and Oxford county (Woodstock)
  • Hamilton-Kitchener district office
    Includes: Wellington county (Guelph), Haldimand county (Hagersville/Cayuga), Waterloo region (Kitchener), Halton region (Oakville), Norfolk county (Simcoe), Niagara region (Welland, St. Catharines), Brant county (Brantford), and Hamilton
  • GTA Peel York
    Includes: Amaranth, Aurora, Brampton, Caledon, East Garafraxa, East Gwillimbury, East Luther Grand Valley, Georgina, King, Markham, Melancthon, Mississauga, Mono, Mulmur, Newmarket, Orangeville, Richmond Hill, Shelburne, Vaughan, and Witchurch-Stouffville
  • GTA North Central
    Includes: East York, Etobicoke, North York, Scarborough, and York
  • GTA Toronto Central
    Includes: Old Toronto
  • Barrie central district office
    Includes: Muskoka district (Bracebridge, Gravenhurst, Huntsville, Georgian Bay, Lake of Bays, Muskoka Lakes, Wahta Mohawke Territory, Moose Point 79), Parry Sound district, Simcoe county, City of Kawartha Lakes, Durham region (Pickering, Ajax, Oshawa, Whitby, Clarington, Uxbridge, Brock, Scugog), Haliburton county, Peterborough county, and Northumberland county
  • Ottawa district office
    Includes: City of Ottawa, Lanark county, Renfrew county, United counties of Leeds-Grenville, United counties of Prescott-Russell, United counties of Stormont-Dundas, Frontenac county, Hastings and Prince Edward counties, Lennox and Addington counties
  • Northeast district office
    Includes: Algoma district, Nipissing district, Sudbury-Manitoulin district, Temiskaming district, and Timmins-Cochrane district
  • Thunder Bay district office
    Includes: Kenora district (Dryden, Kenora, Red Lake, Sioux Lookout, Ear Falls, Ignace, Machin, Pickle Lake, Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls), Rainy River district (Fort Frances, Rainy River, Alberton, Atikokan, Chapple, Dawson, Emo, La Vallee, Lake of the Woods, Morley), Thunder Bay district (Thunder Bay, Greenstone, Marathon, Conmee, Dorion, Gillies, Manitouwadge, Nipigon, O’Connor, Oliver Paipoonge, Red Rock, Schreiber, Shuniah, Terrace Bay), and Nishnawbe-Aski Nation (NAN)

Step two: Meet with your director general

Once all of the application documents arrive at your area’s district office, the director general may contact you to set up an informal discussion. If you wish, you can call the director general yourself to arrange this meeting. The purpose of this meeting is to get to know each other and to discuss your expectations for doing Legal Aid Ontario work. You will then get a letter from the director general that confirms:

  • you have been empanelled with Legal Aid Ontario
  • the panels you have been approved for
  • the conditions, if any, that apply to your empanelment (if you are new to the practice of law or to a particular area of law, these conditions may include achieving prescribed standards in a set period of time, reviewing mandatory substantive law materials, and/or having an informal mentor).

The director general will forward your application package to Legal Aid Ontario’s Provincial Office for processing.

Note: Lawyers new to an area of practice may be admitted conditionally to a panel provided they agree to acquire the necessary experience within a specified time frame, and take approved continuing legal education or be mentored as required by their district area director. This conditional admission does not apply to the Extremely Serious Criminal Matters panel or the Complex Case Rate (CCR) panel.

Step three: Await your Legal Aid Ontario welcome package

You will receive, in the mail, a Legal Aid Ontario welcome package that includes:

  • your Legal Aid Ontario solicitor number/vendor number
  • your tier level (the level at which you can bill; if you are a new call, you will be billing at the Tier 1 level for criminal, mental health, prison law, tribunals and civil litigation)
  • your user ID, password and other information about Legal Aid Online (Legal Aid Ontario’s online billing portal
  • technical tips for online billing
  • contact information for billing questions/concerns
  • information about conditions on your empanelment tailored to your situation, such as the requirement to attend training sessions, work with a mentor, etc.

Forms

Questions

For more information on panel standards, please contact your local district area director. The panel standards were developed by Legal Aid Ontario's Quality Service Office.

Contact the LAO Finance department, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., by phone at 416-979-2352 (Susan Howling at ext. 6487 or Julia Marinucci at ext. 6252) or by fax at 647-260-0548 if you have questions about:

  • Fully completed applications that have been approved by district offices
  • Tier level increases
  • Maintaining vendor records (address changes, updating banking information, etc.)
  • HST refunds
  • Government/legal garnishment
  • Solicitor electronic fund transfer (bank EFT) rejects
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