Out-of-custody criminal duty counsel survey results

Feedback gathered through an informal survey of lawyers who provide out-of-custody criminal duty counsel services shows what is working with the new triage model, and where improvements are needed.
People completing an online survey

In December, 2020, we invited about 100 lawyers to participate in the online survey about the triage model introduced last summer, and we received 55 responses. Survey results told us that, overall, lawyers view the triage model to be working reasonably well. About 75% of respondents rated the model as “fair”, “good” or “excellent.” The model appears to be meeting its main objective of connecting duty counsel with clients who need help finding a lawyer.

The survey identified court locations across BC where significant concerns remain about safety and adequacy of facilities during the pandemic. One-third of lawyers surveyed reported conditions as “unsafe” or “very unsafe.” Most of the concerns were about cleaning, small spaces, poor ventilation, and the absence of plexiglass dividers. LABC acknowledges that these safety concerns need to be addressed, and believe these issues are best resolved at the local level with our support. We welcome your input on ways to effectively assess and remedy these concerns.

Survey highlights include:

  • Triage duty counsel are able to connect to most remand clients who do not have counsel (90% of lawyers reported success in connecting to clients).
  • 71% of lawyers report that significant numbers of clients return to court without effectively connecting to counsel as intended, and some vulnerable clients appear to be falling through the cracks.
  • Despite LABC measures to streamline and simplify intake processes within the triage model, two-thirds of surveyed lawyers said that they, or their clients, face difficulties getting contracts issued. LABC is clarifying with Intake staff that proof of income, or other barriers to issuing Criminal Early Resolution Contracts, should not be an obstacle.

We’d like to remind duty counsel that direct contact between clients and LABC is not required, and applying for legal aid on behalf of clients is encouraged. Lawyers will be compensated when they start working on a file even before a contract has been issued.

We introduced the triage model to help clients connect with legal aid services following court appearances, rather than on the day of appearance, to reduce health risks and to address potential backlogs at courthouses during the pandemic. Triage duty counsel is not a short-term plan. Until we return to in-person legal aid intake and court attendances, we encourage you to connect with clients away from courthouses.