LAO Newsroom

LAO announces new business strategy and management structure

June 6, 2007

Announcement from the President and CEO

Our Corporate Environment

Last fall, we began the Quantum strategic planning initiative. Quantum is an ongoing process to encourage continuous improvement in everything we do to speak to our clients' needs as well as taxpayers' expectations. Quantum included extensive discussions with LAO employees and the area planning sessions across the province engaged our service providers and other key stakeholders.

If there is one thing that was clear in these deliberations, it is that LAO's mandate is a critical element in the pursuit of social justice in Ontario and that we must all consider every day and in every way how we can continue to ensure our organisation's optimal impact.

From Quantum, it was clear that all believe that LAO's development has been considerable and that all of those who have helped make LAO the success that it is should be congratulated for their hard work and dedication.

It was equally clear that the future is going to be dynamic and very demanding. LAO needs to position itself now so that it can be as effective as possible in a rapidly changing public environment that is creating vast opportunities and challenges for all public institutions.

The Goal: The Value Agenda

The Provincial Government's recent Budget announcement allocating additional funds for legal aid services is a very welcome initiative. It recognizes that more needs to be done to provide legal aid services for low-income Ontarians. The bottom line of the Budget is that over the next three years, LAO will have $51 million more to spend and that at the end of that period, our budgetary base will be $19 million more than it is now.

In my view, this new inflow of resources as well as the considerable funding base that LAO is allocated annually are significant examples of the commitment of the people of this province to helping low-income Ontarians with their legal aid needs. Together with LAO's revenues from the Law Foundation, the investment in LAO by the public demonstrates the confidence the people of Ontario have placed in us to ensure that every dollar is spent to the highest level of effectiveness and efficiency. To this end, we need to always be ready to see what can be done better in all aspects of our work. I have discussed with the LAO Board that there are vast opportunities for LAO to do just this.

We believe that we can match the value of our new base increase with program and administrative efficiencies and innovations over the next five years. This is to say that we will commit to the goal that by 2012 our internally-generated improvements will create an additional $19 million of legal aid value to match the government's already-announced $19 million increase to our base funding for 2010. This target represents annually about 1% of our current budget. In other words, together, we are going to find ways to have our programming be at least 1% more efficient and effective each year for the next 5 years. We will consider everything that is reasonable to create this added value. Whether it is through the application of new technology to the management of LAO-funded programs, or simplifying administrative processes such as purchasing, or eliminating any overlap and duplication, or making choices on the basis of what has the most impact for our clients, we will find and implement the ideas necessary to achieve this 1% increase in our overall efficiency and effectiveness. We will also measure our progress with rigour and clarity. This is an ambitious goal but it is doable. Already we are seeing opportunities for very significant efficiencies coupled with improved service to clients. LAO staff have suggested many excellent ideas during the Quantum process. Now it is time to act.

How to Reach the Goal

To achieve this significant further increase in legal aid impact, we have devised a management strategy to govern the next five years of LAO's development. It is driven by implementing the following five key management principles at every level of our operation.

The Five Principles are as follows:

Innovation: we will establish an even more vigorous corporate culture that allows ideas to come forward and embraces new approaches to solving problems.

Measurement: we will create and implement modern tools to measure LAO's performance, identify our successes, and inform our decisions.

Prioritisation: we will establish inclusive and accountable processes and criteria for making clear and principled decisions on LAO's priorities and the allocation of resources.

Accountability: we will ensure that clear, sound management and financial accountability systems are in place throughout LAO so there is no doubt as to where the responsibility lies for taking action and making decisions at all levels; and we will ensure that the legislation governing LAO and setting out its precise roles and functions will be scrupulously followed.

Co-ordination: we will give full expression to our legislated mandate to maximise impact for clients by improving the coordination of legal aid services and ensuring that LAO is managed to ensure synergy among all of its programming and administrative functions.

In applying these Five Principles let me emphasise my own and the LAO Board's commitment to a "no lay-off" policy. This is to say that we are going to achieve our Value Agenda objective without layoffs. I do not believe in lay-offs as a mechanism to achieve positive institutional change. They are counter-productive to the objective of having staff fully engaged in seeking new and interesting ways for their work to be more effective and efficient.

As part of our Value Agenda, we want to ensure that the savings we generate are re-invested in two areas: more service to clients and modernising LAO as an institution in all areas. In particular, reinvestment is needed in the areas of technological development, information management, the modernization of administrative systems and processes, staff development including recruitment and retention strategies that involve skills enhancement and updating, and, where appropriate, improvements to LAO's compensation and benefits regimes. The re-investment strategy will be based on two-thirds of corporate savings to go towards client service and one-third towards LAO institutional modernisation.

There is no particular program or organisational end state to the application of these principles; there is, however, something much more: the development of a vibrant corporate culture that continually evolves to new heights of achievement of its mandate.

The Next Step

We are now ready to take the next step in this process. We know from our consultations that our current organisational design is not sufficient to help us achieve our Value Agenda. As structured, programs operate too much in silos; service to clients is not co-ordinated sufficiently; points of contact with stakeholders are fragmented; communications among staff and particularly between managers and staff is sub-optimal; accountabilities for programs are unclear in many areas. We need to create more places where innovation can be successfully nurtured.

Today, I am announcing a new corporate reporting structure that will assist in addressing these issues.

Effective June 11, 2007 the following reporting structure will come into place:

1. Three Vice Presidents will be responsible for all LAO operational activity offered in four geographic regions across the province. This responsibility includes overseeing LAO's Area Offices and with that, LAO's role in the certificate and duty counsel programs. In addition, to improve program coordination at the regional and local levels, Regional Vice Presidents, supported by their Area Directors, will assume responsibility for LAO's role with respect to the clinic and SLASS programs in each of the regions.

The regional structure and accountabilities are as follows:

  • Greater Toronto Area Region - Rob Buchanan, Vice President
  • South Western and Northern Regions - Sue McCaffrey, Vice President
  • Central and Eastern Region - Maureen Armstrong, Vice President; Maureen will continue to be responsible for the Big Case Management program and for the Refugee Law Office.

The regionalization of LAO services will mean that the positions of Vice President Client Legal Services, Associate Vice President Client Legal Services and Vice President of Clinic and Special Services will be eliminated.

2. The staff within the Clinic Services Office Advisory Team will be reassigned to the Regional Vice Presidents;

3. The Communications Division will be renamed the Communications and Innovation Division. In addition to the traditional communications services provided by this function, it will be responsible for the development and management of all province-wide, client-focused web and electronically-based services, the development of client service operational standards, and the management of LAO's functions with respect to speciality clinics that have a provincial mandate. Heather Robertson will be the Director of this Division;

4. Operational Support, Reciprocity and Video Applications will now form part of the Communications and Innovation Division;

5. The Policy, Planning and External Relations Division will be renamed the Policy and Research Division. LAOLAW, the Clinic Resource Office (CRO), Clinic Services Office (CSO) Business unit and the Provincial Managers of Duty Counsel will report to the Vice President, George Biggar; and

6. Lawyer Services and Payments Centre will report to Michelle S?guin, Vice President Corporate Services.

The new allocation of responsibility will provide greater coordination and clearer accountabilities throughout the LAO management system and foster improved client service and opportunities for increased efficiencies. For example:

  • Working in consultation with LAO's service providers and other stakeholders, the Regional Vice Presidents will have the accountability to effect change that is responsive to both the overall LAO corporate strategy and to local needs and ensure the most effective use of resources. With that in mind, the Regional Vice Presidents will create new networks of stakeholders to facilitate information sharing, coordination of resources, improve services for clients, limit duplication, and improve communication with staff and the communities they serve;
  • The Policy and Research Division will become accountable for and have the additional means to ensure a comprehensive approach for all strategic program policy and research functions and relate to key LAO stakeholders at the provincial level in a more comprehensive way;
  • Corporate Services will have improved accountability for money management with respect to payments under the Certificate and Duty Counsel programs; and
  • With its new and enhanced role with respect to province-wide client service via electronic platforms, the Communications and Innovation Division will help lead the way in modernising the delivery of programming and information in this vital area of service.

In the next few days, the Vice Presidents and the Director of Communications and Innovation will be talking to staff about the new structure.

There is one further personnel aspect to today's announcement. I am pleased to announce that Randall Ellsworth, Director of the Clinic Services Office, will become the new Toronto Area Director.

With the commitment of all of us to the LAO Value Agenda through the application of the Five Principles, the changes we are announcing today will help LAO to achieve its mandate of providing access to justice for low income Ontarians.

I would like to thank all of you for having participated so actively in the Quantum sessions where many of the ideas underpinning the approach of today's announcement first originated. I also want you to know how much the LAO Board and I appreciate your continuing hard work and dedication to the cause of social justice in Ontario.

Bob Ward