Feedback received from refugee and immigration stakeholders
March 2015: Refugee Lawyers Association
In January 2015, as part of its consultation process, LAO presented the Refugee Lawyers Association (RLA) with draft guidelines for the implementation of the new standards. The Refugee Lawyers Association provided feedback on the implementation of the strengthened panel standards in the form of a report (in English only) dated March 2, 2015. LAO provided a response dated March 12, 2015. LAO considered all input when finalizing documents such as the implementation guidelines and in the case of the revised panel renewal process.
Refugee Lawyers Association of Ontario: Response to Legal Aid Ontario's panel standards implementation proposal
March 2, 2015 | PDF, 559 KB
Legal Aid Ontario's response to the Refugee Lawyers Association's (RLA) submission
March 12, 2015 | PDF, 157 KB
February 204: Inter Clinic Immigration Working Group (ICIWG) and the Refugee Lawyers Association (RLA)
While responses ranged from opposition to any changes to the current standards, to full support for the draft presented, these themes emerged:
- Support for term limits and splitting into panels for a general and an appellate panel.
- Questions regarding the appropriate length of a term of panel membership. Some said three years is too long; others said it is too short.
- Whether IAD matters should be included in the general or appellate panel.
- Concerns regarding the proposed experience thresholds; the minimum number of cases every two years were problematic for most respondents.
- Other feedback:
- Service providers outside the GTA, where the volume of work is relatively low, perceived the minimum number of cases as too high, and believed volume was unrelated to quality of work
- Newer calls, lawyers in smaller communities, experienced lawyers with a proven track record who have reduced their refugee caseload, and clinic lawyers who maintain very mixed practices believed the minimum thresholds were problematic.
- The RLA proposed establishment of a number of cases as a qualification for empanelment, i.e., those who meet the numerical threshold might require less scrutiny of their work products.
- Concerns that the standards do not do enough to address the most problematic issue – so-called legal factories that take far too many cases annually. One alternative discussed was to cap the number of cases panel members are permitted to do in a given year, or at least use high volume as a trigger for investigation.
- While it was not possible to track how carefully participants reviewed the quality standards prior to attending the consultations, it appears that many did not realize that a best practices guide is in fact part of the quality standards. This may be because a link to this guide was only available online from the “general panel standards” area of the LAO website, rather than directly from the “consultations” page.
- Those who did review the guide generally agreed with the content. Other feedback on the guide:
- Some said that it is unreasonable to expect counsel to follow all the best practices in light of the low tariff hours, i.e., 16 hours for RPD cases; 10 for H+Cs and PRRAs
- Some suggested amendments to the specific requirements.
- The RLA expressed concern that the guide is largely limited to RPD matters.
- Several respondents suggested development of a guide for appellate work as well.
- Concerns that the proposed minimum six hours annually for Continuing Legal Education in refugee and immigration law is too onerous; some suggested reducing it to three hours.
- Questions regarding how LAO plans to manage the empanelment process and the process for removal. Other feedback on empanelment included:
- Concern that enforcement might be too weak or ineffective to make the standards meaningful.
- Concern that the standards might be used to “harass” lawyers and require them (unnecessarily or unjustifiably) to have to establish their compliance with the standards
- A transparent appeal process was proposed for those removed from or refused admission to the new panel.
- A proposal that LAO include private bar representatives on the committee that reviews panel applications. Many also supported the idea of taking advantage of the knowledge and experience of Area Committees in reviewing prospective panel members’ quality of work.
- Dissatisfaction expressed by experienced lawyers at the possibility that they might have to seek special consideration to meet the requirements of the general panel for RPD and immigration because they are mostly engaged in appellate work, or because they have taken on a reduced caseload.
- Concerns that the standards may be a mechanism to reduce the size of the panel, resulting in insufficient private bar lawyers to serve the needs of clients.
- Questions about the process for empanelment of newer members of the refugee bar, and the need for a compensated mentorship program to help these lawyers achieve the quality standards.
- A number of creative proposals were presented for addressing the specific needs of newer calls, including the development of an entry exam.
Refugee Lawyers Association in Ontario
PDF, 141 KB
Inter-Clinic Immigration Working Group
PDF, 16 KB