Legal Aid Ontario Family Law Expanded Duty Counsel
Legal Aid Ontario duty counsel services that emphasize advancing cases toward resolution by giving duty counsel the capacity to carry client files and provide continuity of representation.
Permanent implementation in Hamilton, Oshawa and London
Hamilton, Oshawa, and London Family Courts
Legal Aid Ontario
|November 1999||First Expanded Duty Counsel offices open in Hamilton and London|
|February 2000||EDC office in Oshawa opens.|
|October 2002||Prairie Research Associates preparesEvaluation for Legal Aid Ontario.|
In 1999, Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) implemented the Family Law Expanded Duty Counsel (EDC) Pilot Projects. The pilot projects, in Hamilton, London, and Oshawa, were designed to test the effectiveness and efficiency of an alternative to the traditional facilitation approach to duty counsel service.
Whereas the traditional model is designed to help clients move to the next stage in the legal process, the expanded model emphasizes advancing cases toward resolution. In the expanded model, duty counsel spend time and effort on behalf of clients in an attempt to assist them in bringing closure to their matter or major elements of their matter. The expanded duty counsel model, therefore, has three important features that distinguish it from the traditional model and that are intended to enable the model to pursue this central principle: the capacity to create and carry client files; the ability to provide continuity of representation; and the capacity to draft court documents.
The three EDC pilot projects are characterized by different combinations of staff and per diem lawyers. In Hamilton, the pilot consists of one staff lawyer, a large per diem panel (55 to 60 lawyers), and 1.5 support persons; in London, the pilot consists of two staff lawyers, a small per diem panel (12 to 15 lawyers), and one support person; and in Oshawa, the pilot has three staff lawyers, a small per diem panel (approximately 22 lawyers), and one support person. At each site, one of the staff lawyers serves as the Coordinator, whose main responsibilities include general office administration and management, per diem scheduling based on demands within their respective courts, and supervision and training of per diems.
LAO engaged Prairie Research Associates (PRA) Inc. to carry out an evaluation of the pilot projects over three years. The evaluation of the Family Law EDC Pilot Projects had three objectives:
- To compare cost and time efficiencies among the three Family Law Expanded Duty Counsel models.
- To compare cost and time efficiencies between the Family Law Expanded Duty Counsel model and the existing duty counsel model of service delivery.
- To compare quality of service among the three Family Law Expanded Duty Counsel models, and between the Expanded Duty Counsel model and the traditional duty counsel model.
The evaluation identified a strong need for EDC services, with many clients being unable to either afford a lawyer or qualify for obtain a legal aid certificate. The service was rated positively by a large majority of stakeholders, providing file continuity, continuity of representation, and better coordination (Evaluation at ii-iii.)