I will restrict my comments to a criminal defence certificate issued by Legal Aid Ontario, because that’s what I know.
Legal Aid is broken and is broken upon the backs of criminal defence lawyers.
A LA certificate provides complete payment to a lawyer for all necessary services to defend a criminal charge at the prescribed hourly rate for a limited number of hours. It cannot be “topped up” by the client or any other source. There is no specific provision for the cost of overhead (office rent, secretarial salaries, cost of advertising and office supplies, equipment, etc.). The rate of pay is so low (around 1/3 or so of the going rate for a privately retained lawyer) and the number of hours allowed so inadequate that lawyers cannot afford to stay in business exclusively on Legal Aid and we cannot afford to represent clients properly. Imagine you needed your car repaired, or the roof of your house replaced. To a lawyer, accepting a certificate is like getting paid $500 for a $1,000 repair job and having to pay our overhead on top. In reality, how does that work out – repair guy goes out of business or you get a shoddy repair? Both. Imagine if you were going into surgery and your doctor told you that it’s a 4 hours operation but he’s only getting paid for 2 hours, and has to pay for the operating room use, pay for the nurses time and bring his own surgical tools. Would you still go through with the surgery?
Even if you were eligible for a Legal Aid certificate, would you want to put your life and liberty in the hands of a lawyer under those circumstances?
LEGAL AID ONTARIO IS BROKEN