Ontario Regional Office
Regulatory Law Section
March 2010


6. RISK AND LEGAL FILE MANAGEMENT AND FORECASTING DEMAND FOR LEGAL SERVICES

6.1 Legal Risk Management

The RLS has effective legal risk management practices in place to manage its case files.

Excellence in risk management is fundamental to the effective delivery of litigation services.

The auditors assessed the RLS’s legal risk management practices in place to mitigate risk at the case level (i.e. estimating the risk of an adverse action occurring and the impact if that risk occurs).

The auditors conducted several interviews with the RLS Director, Deputy Director, and a sample of senior legal counsel to gain a general understanding of RLS legal risk management practices at the case level. We subsequently met with these officials to assess the legal risk management practices associated with specific cases.

We found that the RLS adheres to the risk management practices prescribed by Justice Canada’s Law Practice Management Directorate. For each case, the initial risk assessment is carried out by the RLS Director and Deputy Director. The risk assessment takes into account such factors as the complexity of the case, risk, financial exposure to the Crown, potential media attention, and political impact. Cases are assigned to senior legal counsel based on their availability and expertise. From that point on, the lead counsel become accountable for ensuring that the risk profile of the case is regularly reviewed and updated.

Cases are assigned a numerical rating between 1 and 10 in accordance with departmental risk management requirements. Cases that are considered high risk are rated between 6 and 10. The risk profiles of all cases being handled by the RLS are reviewed regularly by the Director, Deputy Director, and lead counsel as well as by the Regional Litigation Committee. Those cases rated as high risk are given closer scrutiny than those of lower risk.

The audit team reviewed the notes of the Regional Litigation Committee. We found that this committee regularly scrutinized the highest risk cases. Early Warning Notes Footnote 2 are prepared periodically for these cases and are sent to the BRLP at HQ. These Notes are reviewed by the Assistant Deputy Minister and/or the Deputy Assistant Deputy Ministers, BRLP, and are processed expediently.

It is our opinion that the RLS has effective legal risk management practices.

6.2 Management of Legal Files

RLS legal counsel manage legal files effectively using iCase.

The efficient management of legal files and records is critical for any legal practice so that relevant information and precedents can be quickly retrieved.

iCase is used by the RLS for case management, document management (generation and retrieval), and timekeeping related to legal files. The auditors reviewed the iCase Business Standards Manual – Business and Regulatory Law, Justice and Central Agencies Portfolios and found that it provided the key information required to use iCase. The auditors reviewed case files in the presence of RLS counsel and noted that they contained the key information specified in the manual.

The RLS Director informed the audit team that all RLS counsel use iCase to manage their case files. Legal counsel advised that they found iCase to be an effective tool for the management of legal files.

The auditors examined the iCase system to verify its reliability and usefulness as an operational system. We found that there were no technical or operational issues with iCase. Appropriate ORO employees have access to iCase and all the files therein.

The iCase Administrator informed the audit team that she regularly verifies the iCase application to ensure data quality is maintained. We noted that regular iCase Standards Reports containing the results of these verifications are produced. iCase also generates an adequate number of standard reports to detect errors and initiate the necessary remedial action. We reviewed a sample of the iCase Standards Reports. There is documented evidence on file in situations where mandatory information was missing. Furthermore, the iCase Administrator’s work includes a verification of the risk rating to ensure it is current.

Finally, we reviewed the timekeeping audit report that is used to detect errors in time reporting and found that it is run on a weekly basis. Timekeeping errors for legal counsel and paralegals are reported promptly to the RLS Director who initiates the necessary remedial action.

It is our opinion that RLS has effective legal file management practices.

6.3 Forecasting Demand for Legal Services

The RLS has effective practices in place to ensure timely forecasts of demand for legal services.

Effective forecasting of demand for legal services is fundamental to the effective management of the RLS’s legal business.

The RLS is involved primarily in litigation; however, some advisory work is also undertaken. Both aspects of work are included in forecasting demand for legal services. From a review of sample correspondence and information provided to the audit team, we found that various methods are used to forecast demand. These include such activities as ongoing communication within the ORO and with other regional offices, HQ, and client departments and agencies. There is daily communication with these constituents by telephone, email, etc. RLS legal counsel also participate in regional and national committees.

During interviews with three heads of the legal services units, which constitute the RLS’s largest clients, we were informed that communications between them and the RLS are excellent and include frequent discussions on demand for legal services. More detailed information in this regard may be found under “Interfaces With Other Justice Canada Sectors” below.

It is our view that RLS effectively manages demand for legal services.

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