2008 clinic consultations
Discussion paper on roles, responsibilities, relationships and accountability regarding clini law services
Last updated: July 2008
The purpose of this discussion paper is to facilitate the clarification and delineation of the respective roles of LAO, the Association of Community Legal Clinics of Ontario (ACLCO) and clinics, and a movement towards more professional, modern and workable relationships. The analysis starts with first principles – LAO’s governing statute, which clearly provides that clinics are the foundation for the provision of legal aid services in the area of clinic law. The Act also stipulates that LAO is a funder of clinics, and has an obligation to monitor and supervise clinics in the context of administering an efficient and effective legal aid system. These principles require that LAO’s management obligations are not fettered by vague accountabilities or consultative processes that in effect, if not in intent, result in joint decision-making by LAO and clinics. Moving towards clear accountabilities and relationships requires examining the following:
LAO’s present role as both a funder of clinics and a provider of services to clinics:
This dual role arguably contributes to a lack of clarity on roles, and results in LAO micro-managing clinics, and in clinics as funding recipients being inappropriately entangled in internal LAO processes. Transferring clinic support services to individual clinics, or an external clinic services body should be explored.
Clinics’ accountability to LAO for funds received:
Currently, LAO requires clinics to report on expenditures and service statistics, and to complete self-assessment tools that attempt to measure some aspects of client service. However, LAO does not require clinics to meet substantive performance standards in exchange for funding. LAO is therefore not being adequately accountable for the money it spends on clinic law services, and clinics are not adequately accountable for the funding they receive. More meaningful criteria, in consultation with clinics, must be developed – criteria that ensure accountability, and that also measure the true value and impact of clinic work.
New clinic funding models that provide for flexibility, and that encourage innovation and efficiency may be explored, in consultation with clinics.
Respective roles in determining local client need:
The statute provides that both LAO and clinic boards play a role in determining client need. Further clarity is needed in defining the borders of these respective roles
The role of the ACLCO:
LAO funds the ACLCO directly, and one of the ACLCO’s major functions is to advocate to LAO for increased funding or for changes in administrative or consultative practices. This is an anomalous relationship, and a challenging one. LAO must receive value for its funding dollar. A new role of the ACLCO must be envisioned so that it provides supports to clinics, and provides value to LAO. The ACLCO could continue to be a representative voice of clinics in consultations with LAO, but in order for that to be an effective and efficient relationship, there must be a move away from advocacy, towards a professional and modern relationship aimed at problem solving and collaboration where appropriate.
Consultation practices with clinics:
Currently, LAO consults with clinics, either individually, or through the ACLCO, on a wide variety of matters. While clinics concede that they do not share decision making power on most of the topics of consultation, the arduous consultation process, and the advocacy style of consultations slows down LAO decision making to the point that in effect, clinics in some respects have slipped into a co-management role. A re-envisioning of consultation practices could include developing yearly consultation plans, or more clearly defining the types of matters upon which LAO will consult clinics, and what form these consultations should be carried out.
Discussion paper on roles, responsibilities, relationships and accountability regarding clinic law services
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