LAO Newsroom




What is LAO's Block Fee Program?

Posted on: Thursday, April 29, 2010

Where Is There More Information?

Full details about the block fee program, including Frequently Asked Questions, rules, and other materials will be available on the LAO website at: www.legalaid.on.ca/en/info/block_fees.asp.

LAO is introducing a program to pay lawyers block fees for the appropriate resolution of some of the most common criminal charges. Block fees will be paid on these matters for certificates issued after May 1st, 2010.

  • The block fee will be a single, fixed fee for most of a lawyers work on an eligible case. Block fees will replace the hours allocated by the regular criminal tariff on these certificates.
  • The block fees rolled out on May 1st are the first phase of block fees for standard criminal cases. This phase will affect approximately 20% of LAOs criminal certificates.
  • The MAG/CLA/LAO Memorandum of Understanding commits LAO to expand block fees to other standard criminal cases, including remaining summary cases and many indictable matters, in 2011.
  • The transition to block fees raises significant and complex issues for LAO, criminal legal aid, the criminal bar, and legal aid clients. As a result, the first phase of block fees is a pilot or learning phase that is intended to help LAO, the bar, and others better understand the implications of block fees for clients, the bar, LAO, and the criminal justice system generally.
  • LAO has made a number of policy decisions respecting the design and implementation of the first phase of block fees, including decisions regarding experience tiers and the cases subject to blocks in the pilot phase. These decisions were made for the pilot and should not be considered conclusive or determinative of LAOs long-term policies on block fee cases. These decisions have not been enacted in LAOs legislation or regulations.
  • LAO will consult with the Criminal Lawyers Association, criminal lawyers and others to help LAO analyze the pilot phase of the block fee program, including recommendations for reform or amendment.
  • LAO will also consult with the Criminal Lawyers Association, criminal lawyers and others to help LAO design and analyze the subsequent expansion of block fees beyond the first phase.

Why Is LAO Introducing Block Fees?

  • For lawyers, block fee benefits include no dockets, less red tape, more financial certainty, and the opportunity for higher earnings.
  • For clients, block fee benefits include faster resolution of appropriate cases and less time wasted at court appearances.
  • For LAO, block fee benefits include simpler, less expensive administration and greater financial predictability.
  • For the criminal justice system, block fees promote the efficient use of judicial resources and the reduction of court appearances needed to complete a criminal case.

What Does The Program Look Like?

  • LAO has developed a simple, inclusive block fee program that pays block fees for specified outcomes (guilty plea, stay/withdrawal) on a limited number of common criminal charges.
  • The program is designed to allow LAO to extend block fees to additional proceedings and certificates as the program expands.
  • Enhancements available in the first phase include bail reviews and Gladue submissions. LAO will also develop and add a mental health enhancement in the first phase. These enhancements are designed to fund additional services for LAOs most vulnerable clients.
  • The second phase of block fees will introduce a wider range of enhancements and fees to account for the greater complexity of indictable and other summary proceedings.

Whats Included In The Block Fee Program?

  • LAO is not paying block fees for every criminal certificate.
  • The first phase of the block fee program includes some of the most common summary conviction charges, including assault charges where the Crown proceeds by summary conviction, fail to appear and fail to comply charges, mischief charges and theft charges. LAOs analysis identified these cases as suitable for block fees because they are high-volume cases in which most lawyers billings to LAO fall into a narrow, predictable range. A list of the most common block fee eligible charges is attached as appendix A
  • Block fees will be paid for work done up to the appropriate resolution by way of guilty plea or withdrawal/stay of an eligible charge.
  • If a block fee-eligible matter goes to trial (i.e. does not result in a plea or withdrawal/stay), LAO will pay the account according to the hours allocated by the regular criminal tariff.

How Much is LAO Paying?

  • The block fee program is revenue neutral. That is to say, LAO calculated block fee prices on the basis of its current costs of block fee-eligible certificates and an analysis of lawyers billing patterns. Block fee prices have been adjusted upwards to account for all recent tariff increases.
  • LAOs pricing factored in fees currently paid for discretionary increases and the cost of most enhancements and additional services available under current criminal tariff. LAOs pricing also factored in a payment for most the common disbursements.
  • As discretion is already rolled up into the block fee, LAO will not allow discretion on block fee accounts. Several other additional fees are available, however, including travel fees, northern incentives, and excluded disbursements.
  • A full list of block fees paid is attached as Appendix B.

Whats Not Included In Block Fee Program?

  • The following criminal charges/proceedings are excluded from the first phase of the block fee program:
    • Indictable charges
    • BCM cases
    • Hybrid charges where the Crown proceeds by way of indictment
    • YCJA matters
    • Appeals
    • ORB proceedings
    • Trials
  • These matters will be paid according to the regular criminal tariff.
  • Family certificates and refugee certificates are not affected.

How Are Accounts Submitted?

  • LAO will start accepting block fee accounts on the portal on June 7th, 2010.
  • The portal will identify block fee accounts and fees paid automatically.
  • During the first phase of the block fee program, LAO will be operating two payment systems simultaneously: block fees and the regular criminal tariff.
  • For simple block fee certificates (i.e. those with a single, block fee-eligible charge), the account will be paid according to the block fee schedule.
  • For certificates authorizing multiple charges, the portal will require lawyers to bill according to most serious charge on the certificate:
    • If a block fee charge is most serious charge on a certificate, the account will be paid according to the block fee schedule.
    • If a non-block fee charge is most serious charge on a certificate, the account will be paid according to the regular criminal tariff.
  • Block fee certificates must be billed as final accounts upon resolution of the criminal charge. LAO will not accept interim accounts on phase one block fee accounts.

What Else Is New?

  • LAO will require lawyers to report on case outcomes of block fee certificates.
  • LAO is developing new quality, audit and compliance tools designed to meet the needs of the block fee program.

What Else Is Important?

  • There are several other features lawyers should be aware of:
    • Block fees are not tiered
    • The annual hard cap policy still applies
    • The daily cap policy does not apply
    • The solicitor portal will include new system controls to deter questionable billing practices
  • The first phase of the block fee program is a learning phase and LAO expects to make adjustments and amend policies as we gain experience.
  • LAO will continue to work with the Criminal Lawyers Association and others to monitor the progress of the program; review or update policies, and or make any necessary changes.

Where Is There More Information?

Full details about the block fee program, including Frequently Asked Questions, rules, and other materials will be available on the LAO website at: www.legalaid.on.ca/en/info/block_fees.asp.


Appendix A

List of Most Common Block Fee-Eligible Charges in Phase One

The first phase of the block fee program is limited to selected summary conviction charges, including hybrid charges where the Crown proceeds by summary conviction. The following list of charges represents more than 95% of the charges in the first phase of the block fee program:

  • Assault
  • Assault Bodily Harm
  • Assault Police
  • Assault Resist Arrest
  • Breach of Probation
  • Breach of Recognizance
  • Breach of Undertaking
  • Fail to Appear
  • Fail to Comply
  • Mischief Under
  • Possession Property Obtained by Crime Under $5,000
  • Possession Under
  • Theft Under

LAOs analysis identified these cases as suitable for block fees because they are high-volume cases in which most lawyers billings to LAO fall into a narrow, predictable range. The complete list of phase one block fee charges is available on LAOs website at: www.legalaid.on.ca/en/info/block_fees.asp.

The following criminal charges/proceedings are excluded from the first phase of the block fee program:

  • Indictable charges
  • Hybrid charges where the Crown proceeds by way of indictment
  • BCM cases
  • YCJA matters
  • Appeals
  • ORB proceedings

Appendix B

Block Fees Paid For Phase One Block fee Cases


For further information

If you have any questions or require further information regarding LAO and Block Fees please contact:

Lawyer Contact
Nye Thomas
Director, Strategic Research
Email: thomasa@lao.on.ca

Media Contact
Kristian Justesen
Manager, Communications and Media Relations
Email: justesk@lao.on.ca