Mentoring opportunities at Legal Aid Ontario

Questions and answers


Why is Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) supporting this program?

Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is launching this program as part of its commitment to help build the bar, enhance client services and support access to justice.

Who is eligible for this program?

The Second Chair program will support a range of training opportunities for private bar lawyers throughout Ontario:

  • A new or mid-career Ontario lawyer with an unusually challenging legal aid case can submit a mentor application form asking for a more senior lawyer to act as second chair for the case
  • A senior lawyer working on an unusually challenging legal aid case can fill in a mentor application form asking for a more junior lawyer to act as second chair on the case
  • A new or mid-career Ontario lawyer can fill in a mentee application form asking to be assigned as second chair on a legal aid case managed by a more senior lawyer. 

Who chooses the people who get into this program?

LAO’s director generals, case managers at the Provincial Case Management Office, or the Refugee Law Office will make the choices and authorize the hours. They can choose to provide senior counsel to act as second chair on a case, or authorize a junior counsel for trial preparation and attendance. In addition, director generals may proactively identify cases appropriate for a second chair, and seek to find counsel to assist on those cases.

Can lawyers with a Big Case Managed (BCM) budget apply for a second chair authorization under the Second Chair program?

Lawyers with cases already accepted to the BCM program may apply for co-counsel under the second chair program. A lawyer may be authorized as a second chair only if the lawyer and the case:

  • meet the requirements of the Second Chair program and
  • would not otherwise be eligible for co-counsel under a BCM budget. 

A preliminary inquiry, or a mid-case budget case with a significant amount of expert evidence, may, for example, qualify.

Can lawyers who have received authorization for a certain number of hours for a proceeding from the Second Chair program apply for additional hours later on in the proceeding?

Yes, but rarely. Funding for Second Chair programs is limited, and more support may not be available for additional second chair hours as a matter proceeds. That said, a director general or a case manager may consider providing additional hours to the original second chair authorization if the need for additional hours could not have been reasonably anticipated.  

How do lawyers apply to the Second Chair program?

Lawyers can submit a mentor or mentee application form to These forms will go directly to their director general, the BCM program or the Refugee Law Office – whichever is most appropriate.

They will need to provide reasons why a senior counsel would be of assistance, or why the case would provide a good learning opportunity for a less experienced lawyer. They can suggest the name of a second chair with whom to work on the case. If they do not know a lawyer who could assist as senior or junior counsel, they can ask LAO to put forward an appropriate co-counsel.

What are the qualifications for lawyers to obtain support from the Second Chair program?

The qualifications for mentors (senior lawyer second chair) include:

  • experience in the area of law at issue, and a previous role acting in a mentoring or related educational capacity
  • active panel members who carry a consistent case load and have a well-developed legal aid practice, a good administrative history with LAO, and a reputation for providing high quality services

The qualifications for mentees (junior lawyers seeking a mentor), include demonstration of a consistent commitment to a particular area of law, and existence of a legal aid practice.

For further details, please review the full criteria in the application form.

How will lawyers be paid under this program?

LAO will issue certificates that specifically authorize a number of hours to act as a mentor or mentee. Lawyers may bill for the hours set out in the certificate, and according to their tier level.

Can LAO staff lawyers participate in the program?

No. The Second Chair program is available only to private bar lawyers. LAO provides other programs to support the training of its staff lawyers.

Pre-approved program - general

I am a pre-approved mentor and am responsible for mentoring two junior lawyers. How many pre-approved hours do I get?

Once you have been selected as a pre-approved mentor, your director general or panel manager will provide you with a block of hours you can use during each fiscal year. This block of hours covers your mentorship of one or more mentees.

What is the process to have a second chair certificate issued?

Please follow these steps:

When do I request a second chair certificate?

You can request a second chair certificate:

  • before, during or after a mentoring relationship has been formally established and
  • only if there is an existing LAO certificate

I have submitted a payment report for three hours of mentoring, but I have a five-hour certificate. Is my allocation reduced by three hours or by five?

LAO deducts actual hours billed from pre-approved hours. This means your annual allocation will be reduced by three hours.

I mentored a lawyer for seven hours, and my second chair certificate is for five hours. How do I get paid for the two additional hours?

LAO issues second chair certificates in increments of five hours. You can request that LAO add a second five-hour increment to your existing five-hour certificate. You can then bill and receive payment for the seven hours.

I spent 52 hours on mentoring but only have 50 hours authorized. Can I get paid for the two hours over the authorized amount?

LAO would like mentors to stay within their pre-approved hours. Should you encounter an exceptional circumstance where you need more hours, please contact us, at to request those additional hours.

I billed 30 hours out of my 50-hour allocation on my second chair certificates. Now it’s March 31, LAO’s fiscal year end. Can I carry over the 20 hours remaining from my 50-hour allocation into the next fiscal year?

Any unused hours during one fiscal period cannot be carried over to the next fiscal period. Pre-approved mentors are selected/confirmed on an annual basis and receive an allocation of hours at the beginning of each fiscal year, i.e., on the first day of LAO’s fiscal year, April 1. Allocated hours are valid for the fiscal year only – April 1 of one year to March 31 of the following year.

If I begin work with a mentee in early March 2016, should I put in the pre-approved mentor payment form with an estimate of hours before the end of LAO’s 2015/16 fiscal year? Can I then submit for payment in April 2016?

Yes. You should submit a pre-approved mentor payment report in March 2016 to have the second chair certificate(s) issued, then submit an account for payment in April 2016 on the certificate issued for your mentor/mentee work. For certificates issued in March 2016, any mentoring accounts paid, including ones submitted in April 2016, will count towards your 2015/16 mentorship allocation of hours.

More information

Lawyers interested in the program can contact:

  • Marcus Pratt, Deputy Director, Policy and Strategic Research at
  • the district director general
  • the executive lead for LAO’s Refugee Services Transformation for refugee/immigration opportunities
  • a case manager for Big Case Management support.