About Legal Aid Ontario

In 1998, the Ontario government enacted the Legal Aid Services Act in which the province renewed and strengthened its commitment to legal aid. The Act established Legal Aid Ontario (LAO), an independent but publicly funded and publicly accountable non-profit corporation, to administer the province's legal aid program.

Our mandate

Legal Aid Ontario has a statutory mandate to promote access to justice throughout Ontario for low-income individuals by means of:

  • Providing consistently high quality legal aid services in a cost-effective and efficient manner;
  • Encouraging and facilitating flexibility and innovation in the provision of legal aid services;
  • Identifying, assessing and recognizing the diverse legal needs of low-income individuals and of disadvantaged communities in Ontario; and
  • Providing legal aid services to low-income individuals through a corporation that will operate independently from the Government of Ontario but within a framework of accountability to the Government of Ontario for the expenditure of public funds.

In fulfilling this mandate Legal Aid Ontario is committed to providing services which recognize the importance of diversity, access, equity, creativity and quality.

Our vision

To ensure that healthy communities include responsive and meaningful legal aid services and improved access to justice.

Our values

We act with integrity and we assume that others do so.

We practice respect in all relationships.

We are responsive to clients, stakeholders and staff. We treat people in an equitable way, recognizing their needs.

We strive for excellence and continuous quality improvement. We aim to attract and retain the best employees.

We are an independent part of the justice system.

We are accountable to the government, clients, stakeholders and staff.

We are open and consultative in decision-making.

We are consistent in our processes and decision-making. We create unity across the organization. We make decisions on the basis of facts and sound principles.

Our obligations

LAO's mandate in the Legal Aid Services Act, 1998 is to "promote access to justice throughout Ontario for low-income individuals by means of providing consistently high quality legal aid services in a cost-effective and efficient manner."

Our bylaws

Under the authority of the Legal Aid Services Act, s.63(1), Legal Aid Ontario’s Board has passed two bylaws for the management of the Corporation and for the conduct and administration of its business and affairs: a general bylaw and a conflict of interest policy for directors.

Our clients

Our clients have one thing in common - they are people with low or no income. Every day LAO helps almost 4,000 disadvantaged people, including single parents seeking child support; domestic violence survivors; parents seeking custody of children; refugees; and accused persons.

Only people meeting strict financial eligibility limits receive legal aid. Wherever possible clients are asked to contribute toward the cost of their legal fees.

Our services

LAO services are carefully targeted to meet diverse client needs and make the most efficient use of our resources.

A wide range of services are available through LAO’s toll-free number, including summary legal advice for family and criminal law matters.

We provide duty counsel services - performed by staff and private-sector lawyers - for people who arrive in criminal, family or youth courts without a lawyer.

Poverty law services - such as helping people to obtain or maintain social assistance benefits - are delivered through a network of a number of independent, community-based legal aid clinics, funded by LAO.

LAO also runs a certificate program for the most serious and complex cases. Eligible low-income clients can obtain a certificate which is used to retain a private lawyer.

Our valued partners

The duty counsel and certificate programs simply couldn't work without the support and commitment of Ontario's private-sector lawyers. LAO provides the funding and other support, while some 4,000 private lawyers contribute to legal aid by accepting reduced rates and limits on billable hours for the legal services they give to clients.