A certificate indicates what matters are covered by the certificate, and Counsel should ensure the coverage stipulations are reviewed carefully. If Counsel believes further coverage is required, Counsel must advise the client to contact LAA immediately to make that request.
Counsel on a certificate
Counsel may not transfer a certificate or the responsibility for a file to another Counsel without the consent of the client and LAA. However, Counsel may retain the services of other Counsel as an agent or may allow another Counsel within the same firm to assist with steps on a file.
With the consent of the student’s articling principal, a student-at-law may apply to be added to the LAA roster. They may then accept certificates in their own name. Students may also assist lawyers with steps on their certificates.
All student work on a certificate must be supervised of the Principal and students must comply with all Rules of Court and the Rules of LAA regarding the work that can be completed by a student. Work completed by students-at-law will be compensated at a different rate as set out by the Legal Aid Alberta Tariff.
When a student accepts a certificate, the student will continue to be compensated at the student rate until the completion of the certificate, even if the student becomes a lawyer prior to the certificate completion. If a student becomes a lawyer and is of the opinion that an active certificate will not be completed for a significant period of time, the student may write to LAA and request that a new certificate be issued to them as a lawyer. On approval, the lawyer hourly rate would then apply. The written request should include details of the steps taken to date, the outstanding issues, the steps that remain to be taken and when it is anticipated the certificate will be completed, so that a decision can be made on whether it is an appropriate circumstance to issue a new certificate.
When a student assists a lawyer on a certificate, the lawyer must indicate on his/her account which steps were completed by the student and must bill the student rate for the student’s work.
Students will not be allowed to accept Duty Counsel Certificates.
Counsel who accepts a certificate is expected to conclude matters whenever possible. Any Counsel who consistently withdraws or ceases to act once all tariff allotments are maximized may be referred to the Roster Committee for referral to the Law Society of Alberta.
Counsel must provide legal services and incur disbursements pursuant to a certificate in the same manner as with any other client. LAA may not reimburse Counsel for steps taken that were not justified or necessary for the proper conduct of the action or if a matter was unreasonably prolonged.
Counsel must manage a client and should bring to LAA’s attention any excessive demands of time, unrealistic requests for services, or unreasonable behavior on the part of a client, so that LAA can evaluate whether the client’s coverage should continue.
Certificate status updates
Counsel must immediately respond to requests made by LAA for a status update on a certificate. Non-compliance with a status request update will result in the cancellation of coverage.
Client’s financial circumstances
Counsel must immediately advise LAA of any changes to the client’s financial circumstances that might affect the client’s eligibility for LAA services including, but not limited to, changes in employment status or income, change in marital status, funds received by a client or changes in address. Changes in a client’s financial circumstances may result in termination of coverage under the specific guidelines of Administrative Policy 02 – Financial Eligibility. Clients specifically waive solicitor/client privilege with respect to their financial circumstances as a condition of their LAA coverage.
Release of funds to client
Counsel cannot release any funds to a client that were received on behalf of the client without receiving the consent of LAA and are expected to forward any money held in trust on behalf of the client to LAA at the time of submission of the final account. Counsel may seek permission from LAA to release funds to a client. Requests should include an explanation of why funds were received, how much money was received, an estimate of Counsel’s total accounts to be submitted pursuant to the Certificate and an explanation of why Counsel wishes to release the funds, such as the client is experiencing extreme financial hardship.
Release of the client file
Counsel cannot release a file to the client or new Counsel without the consent of LAA, as LAA’s interests in seeking repayment for services must always be protected.
Counsel cannot accept any remuneration from the client or anyone else for work completed on behalf of the client with respect to the matters covered by the certificate. Where additional matters are being handled by private retainer, Legal Aid Alberta must be aware.
Requests for extra tariff items
Counsel may request extra tariff items, including additional Chambers applications, bail applications or hours, if a matter is inordinately complicated or prolonged. Such requests can be made online or in writing and must include an explanation of why the extra tariff item is required. Counsel should submit an up-to-date interim account prior to making a request for extra tariff items. Access Lawyer Portal to see the guidelines on Requesting Extra Tariff Items and Special Disbursements. Requests must be made in advance.
Enforcement of orders
A Certificate does not include enforcement of order, unless specifically authorized on the certificate.
Representation of co-accused or co-clients
Where Counsel represents co-accused or co-clients with respect to a matter, Counsel is remunerated at one half the applicable tariff item rates plus 10 per cent for all jointly rendered services. Full tariff fees are allowable for services rendered separately.
Conclusion of multiple matters
Where Counsel has more than one certificate and appears or completes more than one information at the same appearance, the disposition fee may be claimed on only one certificate.
Extensions of coverage
Unless otherwise stated in the Legal Aid Alberta Rules and policies, where a client is charged with additional offences that are not included on the certificate provided, the client must contact LAA directly to request the additional services.
Client’s failure to appear
Where a client fails to appear for Court and 90 days has elapsed with no contact with the client, Counsel should withdraw from the Record and submit a final account.