Legal Aid Ontario - Transforming client service delivery in North York

Posted on: Friday, January 15, 2010

Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is transforming the way it delivers legal aid services in North York through innovation and technology. In keeping with our mandate to provide high-quality and cost-efficient legal aid services, LAO is streamlining administration and increasing front line client services to make legal aid help and information more easily available for low-income Ontarians. 

New legal aid service options

LAO is improving criminal, immigration and civil law services to meet the needs of the North York community. Clients can now access a full range of legal aid services and information in 120 different languages through LAO’s toll-free number (1-800-668-8258 and press 0). Delivering a full range of legal aid services over the phone is a faster, more convenient access point, and the multilingual feature is well-suited to a diverse community with many new immigrants. LAO’s improved website provides a 24-hour point of contact, making legal information more accessible to clients and lawyers.  As well, LAO will have an increased presence in the North York criminal court (1000 Finch Avenue West), to provide greater access to information and legal assistance to our clients with criminal law matters. 

Family Law Service Centre

As part of this transformation, LAO is converting the North York area office from a legal aid application site to a Family Law Service Centre to better serve the needs of the community. As many of you know, LAO’s North York office (45 Sheppard Avenue East) is located next to one of the province’s largest and busiest Ontario Court of Justice family courts. The location of a Family Law Service Centre (FLSC) at that site will create a one-stop resource for family law clients seeking information, support and legal services.
The North York Family Law Service Centre will provide an appropriate mix of diverse services based on the client’s need and type of the case:

    • information about family breakup, family law and the family justice system
    • client need assessment in order to determine the appropriate service for the client
    • early identification of vulnerable clients in serious domestic violence and child protection cases
    • referral service to appropriate agencies (e.g. housing, income support
    • tailored family law services so that LAO clients receive the right service based on the nature of their issues and needs, namely,
      • variation applications for support and simple access issues
      • a paralegal documentation preparation service
      • the referral of non-complex and non-contentious issues to duty counsel for assistance
      • mediation/settlement conference facilities
      • direct client service by a staff lawyer
      • direct client service for eligible clients who have retained a lawyer through LAO.
    • certificate management and the facilitation of appropriate cases for mediation at an early litigation stage.
    • continuing legal education programs, the onsite availability of LAO lawyer supports (e.g.: mentoring services) and the development of local family law panel lawyers.

The South Legal Clinic of Ontario (SALCO) will be relocating to 45 Sheppard Avenue East by April 1, 2010, next to the North York Family Law Service Centre. While the clinic and centre will be working independently of each other, they will add to the synergy of LAO’s one-stop resource for clients seeking information, support and legal services in the hub for all family law court matters in the GTA region

Improved LAO management

LAO’s new approach improves coordination, accountability and management of legal aid services and service providers.  It also means better oversight in the courts.  North York is supported by three directors, who manage and oversee all legal aid services in the GTA Region.  Paula Beard, Director of Criminal Law Services, Maureen Hastings, Director, Administration, Immigration and Civil Law Services and Sheilagh O’Connell. Director of Family Law Services will be working together to support service providers -- including panel lawyers -- and duty counsel, manage client services and build relationships with justice partners in the GTA.

LAO is committed to putting the legal needs of Ontarians first and looks forward to continuing to work with you.