Clinic law services strategic direction

Questions and answers

Last updated: Thursday, May 16, 2013

1. Why is this strategic directions paper necessary?

A: Clinic law is a key aspect of the legislation governing Ontario’s legal aid plan. Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is responsible for ensuring that the legal aid system in Ontario is the best it can be. The clinic law area is the next area under LAO’s responsibility to undergo a modernization process. LAO is beginning this process by clearly stating the objectives and principles upon which the modernization of clinic law will be based.

2. What are the problem areas in the clinic area that require change?

A: The clinic law area was established several decades ago and needs to take into account societal changes, as every other aspect of public policy has been doing. Communities have changed and so have their needs and expectations. For example, the demographics in Ontario have unquestionably changed. Society’s use of technology has changed in all areas, including the delivery of publicly funded programs. The public’s expectation for both transparency and the optimal stewardship of public funds is heightened in today’s world. All of these need to be addressed to ensure the effectiveness of clinic law in the future.

3. Is this about cutting clinic funding?

A: No. This is about achieving more and better client service and delivering it in the most cost-effective way possible. The paper sets out the objectives and principles by which this will be achieved.

4. Is LAO reducing the number of clinics?

A: The point of this strategic direction is to achieve more and better client service and deliver it in the most cost-effective way possible. Clinics and LAO have already worked together in several areas of the province to achieve improved economies of scale with respect to clinic organizational design. LAO agrees that more of this will benefit clinic law delivery for clients.

5. If savings result from this process, will that money stay in the clinic law area?

A: In the course of its ongoing modernization program, LAO has achieved millions of dollars in savings in all areas of its operations and programming. When savings are achieved, they are reallocated to areas of highest priority, for the benefit of the whole legal aid system, as determined by the LAO Board of Directors.

6. Will LAO be imposing mergers on unwilling clinics?

A: LAO does not run clinics, and LAO cannot impose changes. Each clinic is an independent community-based corporation governed by its own Board of Directors. LAO does have the legislated responsibility to ensure that the money it provides for each aspect of its programming is spent wisely, in the interests of legal aid clients.

7. Does LAO support the principle of community-based governance for legal aid clinics?

A: Yes.

8. Does LAO support the ACLCO strategic plan?

A: The two documents have many themes in common. For example: maximizing cooperation, fostering amalgamations and other kinds of configurations of clinics, improving technologically oriented client service and ensuring the effectiveness of the community-based approach of clinic law are all recognized in both documents. There are also areas where LAO believes there could easily be common ground, such as promoting transparency, governance and management excellence.

9. Did LAO consult with clinics on this paper?

A: LAO is accountable for the overall management of the legal aid system in Ontario. It plays an overseer role. The objectives enunciated in the Clinic Law Strategic Direction paper are rooted in the provincial government’s laws and regulations pertaining to ensuring client service and the good stewardship of public funds. LAO believes that these principles need to be the basis of the future development of clinic law and wants to make them clear. How they will be implemented will be the subject of much consultation and discussion with clinics and others in the months and years ahead.

10. Is LAO replacing the clinics and clinic system with staff offices?

A: No.

11. Does LAO have a “secret agenda” for clinics?

A: This paper reflects all current LAO thinking on how to further the development of clinic law.

12. Is LAO replacing clinics with information kiosks and telephone-based services?

A: No. Clinics remain, by law, the foundation of the delivery of clinic law. The legislation also provides for trying new ideas.

13. What is LAO’s timetable for the implementation of these principles?

A: LAO anticipates that this will be a three-to-five-year process of change. The planning phase should commence immediately with clinics in all regions. Plans should be developed over the current year and initial phases of implementation should start in fiscal 2014.


14. What happens if some clinics refuse to participate in the planning or object to the LAO principles?

A: LAO proposes to have discussions and consultations first before contemplating the worst-case scenarios. Since LAO’s Clinic Law Strategic Direction paper and the clinics’ strategic plan have so much in common, LAO expects there will progress. The clinics’ own strategic paper calls for cooperation with LAO, so it is difficult to expect anything different.

15. How does the administrative savings project relate to LAO’s paper?

A: These two initiatives are related but not the same. They will inform each other as discussions unfold.

16. What is the ACLCO’s role in this process?

A: The ACLCO’s own strategic plan contemplates that it will work with LAO.