Need legal help?
Last updated June 2011
CLEO launches a Services Map
Please visit our Services Map to help find key legal and community services in your area. This site will lead you to a wide range of services that you can sort by region, legal topic or type of organization.
CLEONet cannot give legal advice or help you with a specific legal problem. So we have put together the following information, which is divided into three main sections. The information applies to Ontario.
- Finding a lawyer
- Getting legal help if you are someone with a low income
- Getting legal help in courts and tribunals
Finding a lawyer
Many people find legal help by asking family members, friends, or co-workers to recommend someone. But it is also important to get answers to the following questions: Are they recommending someone who knows the area of law that you need help in? Can a paralegal help you in this area or do you need to work with a lawyer? How much does this person charge?
The Law Society of Upper Canada has information on its web site to help you find the legal assistance you need.
Lawyer Referral Service
You can call the Lawyer Referral service (LRS) to get the name of a lawyer. You then call the lawyer and, within three business days, the lawyer should call you back to arrange a free 30-minute consultation. The consultation will help you find out about your legal options and whether you want to hire the lawyer.
You can access the service by calling 1-800-268-8326 or 416-947-3330.
To read more about the LRS, including what type of questions you can ask during your consultation and how to contact them, visit their web site. The LRS is run by the Law Society of Upper Canada.
Services for victims of domestic violence
If you are experiencing violence or the effects of violence, crisis, and abuse, and you urgently need legal help, you can arrange for a 2-hour consultation with a private lawyer through some shelters and community legal clinics. To find the community legal clinic for your area, you can check the Legal Aid Ontario web site and enter your postal code.
If you are a woman who needs legal help because of domestic violence, you can call the Assaulted Women's Helpline. They can do crisis counselling, give emotional support, and make referrals to shelters and legal services. The helpline answers calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and can give information in a number of languages.
Toll-free: 1-866-863-0511top of page
Toronto area: 416-863-0511
Toll-free TTY: 1-866-863-7868
Toronto area TTY: 416-364-8762
#SAFE: #7233 on your Bell, Rogers, FIDO, or Telus mobile phone
Web site: www.awhl.org
Getting legal help if you are someone with a low income
In Ontario, people who have low incomes can get free help with some types of legal problems through:
Community legal clinics
There are community legal clinics across the province that give free legal help or advice to people who have low incomes.
Community legal clinics have lawyers and community legal workers who can give legal advice and represent people in certain areas of law, such as:
- social assistance,
- workers' compensation,
- Canada Pension Plan,
- immigration and refugee matters, and
- human rights.
Some community legal clinics do not offer help in all of these areas. But they can often refer you somewhere else for help.
To get services from most community legal clinics, you must live in the area they serve and your income and assets cannot be above a certain level. To find out if you qualify for services, you can contact your local clinic.
To find the community legal clinic for your area, you can check the Legal Aid Ontario web site and enter your postal code. To find the telephone number for your clinic call Legal Aid Ontario at (416) 979-1446 or 1-800-668-8258.
Student legal aid services societies
There is a legal clinic or what is called a student legal aid services society (SLASS) at each of the six universities in Ontario that have a Faculty of Law.
To get help from a SLASS, you must be a student at the university, or you must live in the area the SLASS serves and your income and assets cannot be above a certain level. At a SLASS, law students, who are supervised by lawyers, can help with certain kinds of legal problems, such as:
You can also find a map and full listing of SLASS clinics in Ontario as part of CLEONet's Services Map.
- less serious criminal charges,
- small claims court,
- housing, and
- immigration and refugee matters.
There is contact information for the six student legal aid services societies on the Legal Aid Ontario web site.
Legal Aid Ontario
Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) helps low-income individuals and disadvantaged communities get legal assistance through a broad range of services, including legal help for low-income people who appear in court without a lawyer, telephone and online assistance, resources, referrals, and assistance in retaining a lawyer if applicants meet eligibility requirements. LAO provides help in certain areas of law, such as criminal, family, and immigration and refugee.
For more information, visit the LAO web site. Or, call the LAO client service centre at 1-800-668-8258 or 416-979-1446. The TTY numbers are 1-866-641-8867 and 416-598-8867.top of page
Getting legal help in courts and tribunals
You can find a wide range of services available that provide legal help in courts and tribunals as part of our new Services Map.
Duty counsel at courts
If you are at court and don't have a lawyer, you can look for the duty counsel office or ask to see duty counsel. There are duty counsel lawyers at criminal and family courts. Duty counsel lawyers will help you for free but you may first have to show that you can't afford to pay for your own lawyer. And, there are limits to what they can help you with.
In criminal cases, duty counsel can give basic advice, ask for adjournments, and help with bail hearings and guilty pleas.
In family court, duty counsel can give basic advice, prepare and review documents, represent people in some motions and hearings, and help with settlement negotiations.
There is more information about getting help in court on the Legal Aid Ontario web site.
Tenant duty counsel at the Landlord and Tenant Board
If you are a tenant who has to go to the Landlord and Tenant Board and you don't have any legal help, you may be able to get help when you arrive at the Board from a tenant duty counsel. There are tenant duty counsel at many Board locations. Tenant duty counsel are lawyers and community legal workers.
Tenant duty counsel will help you for free but you may first have to show that you can't afford to pay for your own lawyer. And, there are limits to what they can help you with. Tenant duty counsel can give basic advice, help negotiate settlements with landlords, and review and help fill out some forms and documents, especially those related to eviction. They can sometimes assist tenants at hearings with procedures such as urgent review applications and requests for adjournments.
To find out if there will be tenant duty counsel at the Board location you are going to, call your local community legal clinic before you go to the Board. To find the community legal clinic for your area, you can check the Legal Aid Ontario web site and enter your postal code.
Law Help Ontario Self-Help Centres
If you cannot afford a lawyer to help you with a civil legal issue and you live in Toronto or Ottawa, you can get general information on court procedures, help filling out forms, and some legal advice from the Law Help Ontario centres at Small Claims Court and Superior Court.
These services are free, but you must be able to show that your income is below the Law Help Ontario limit. For more information, visit the Law Help Ontario web site.
Family Law Information Centres
There are Family Law Information Centres at courthouses that deal with family law. All of the centres have free pamphlets on topics such as separation and divorce, court procedures, and family mediation. Many of the centres have staff who can give information and make referrals to community agencies and legal services. During specific hours, some of the centres have lawyers from Legal Aid Ontario who can meet with you.
For more information, you can contact your local courthouse or visit the section about Family Law Information Centres on the Ministry of the Attorney General web site.top of page