Legal Aid Ontario implements new duty counsel referral process
Posted on: Friday, April 15, 2011
LAO is enhancing its certificate referral process to help serve clients more efficiently. Duty counsel across the province are now using a standard form to refer clients to the certificate program. The referral form was created to standardize case and client information and help clients get the appropriate service for their legal matter.
The referral form will be used when duty counsel are the first point of contact for clients and duty counsel feel referral to the certificate program is appropriate. Clients referred to the certificate program by duty counsel will receive a completed referral form and be advised to contact LAO’s toll-free number or courthouse location for further assistance. In making referrals, duty counsel will take into account LAO’s simplified financial eligibility test requirements and use the form to capture any additional information if necessary.
LAO’s certificate qualification criteria will not change with the implementation of this process. Vulnerable clients, particularly those dealing with domestic violence and mental health issues will continue to benefit from the flexibility of the eligibility criteria that LAO has always accorded them.
For lawyers, the new process means eligible clients will receive a certificate faster, potentially on their first court date, and are thus able to retain counsel sooner. Conversely, clients who are not eligible for certificate services and whose matter is outside the scope of duty counsel assistance are also identified at an early stage and can receive an early referral to the private bar.
The new duty counsel referral process is part of a modernization strategy that includes over 50 new courthouse offices and six new Family Law Service Centres.