LAO listens to lawyers on changes to block fees pilot
Posted on: Friday, December 10, 2010
Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) has heard lawyers’ concerns about the block fee pilot, and is announcing two important updates to address these issues. Interim billing will soon be available on block fee accounts, and transitional certificates, those affected by the rate changes in September, will be honoured at the original block fee rate.
Block fees and interim billing
Starting December 12th, interim billing will be allowed on block fee accounts. Previously, the interim billing rule prohibited lawyers from billing on all block fee charges. Starting in late November, lawyers will be able to interim bill through the Legal Aid Online billing portal on certificates for matters known to be proceeding by indictment and on summary conviction trials.
New certificates for outstanding charges
Lawyers were also prevented from interim billing in situations where when one or more block fee charges on a certificate was heard separately, or where a block fee matter has been resolved, but a tariff matter has been put over. Both situations were complicated by LAO’s certificate amendment policy, which adds new charges to existing certificates.
To resolve this situation, LAO will now issue new certificates for outstanding charges that are heard separately. This will allow lawyers to submit final bills on block fee accounts when charges have been resolved. They will then be able to submit another bill on the new certificate, once any outstanding charges have been resolved.
On September 20, 2010 LAO made three major changes to the block fees pilot:
- More than 20 charges were removed from the pilot, and will be paid according to the regular criminal tariff.
- Two charges (assault resist arrest and assault police) were added to the block fees program.
- A new “basic” block fee was established for charges remaining in the pilot.
A small number of “transitional certificates”—certificates that were issued prior to September 20, 2010, but not billed until after this date—have been affected by these changes.
In many cases, the effect of the amendments on the transitional certificates was positive, and resulted in an increase in lawyers’ compensation. For example, the new block fee for assault resist arrest or assault police charges increases the fees paid for these certificates.
However, in the case of new “basic” block fee certificates, compensation was reduced by about $25 to $30 from the original block fee schedule. LAO has decided to “top up” the fees paid on transitional block fee certificates by $25 or $30 to ensure lawyers receive the original rates.
Since this “top up” is difficult to make through Legal Aid Online, LAO will instead issue cheques directly to lawyers who are affected. These cheques will be issued on a monthly basis and will be credited to the appropriate certificates and accounts.
For further information
For questions or more information:
Lawyers Service Center
Phone: (416) 979-9934