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Legal aid

Ontarioontario specific information but
similar services exist in other parts of canada

I can’t afford a lawyer

Depending on your financial situation, including your income and whether you own property, you may qualify for assistance from Legal Aid Ontario (LAO). LAO can provide you with what is called a certificate to cover all or part of your lawyer’s bill. There are a number of different arrangements LAO can make:

  • You may qualify for a certificate that covers all your legal costs for all your legal issues.
  • You may qualify for a certificate that covers only some of the legal issues you are dealing with.
  • If you own a home, LAO may put a lien on the house, which means that when you sell it, LAO will be paid money from its sale to cover the cost of your lawyer.
  • LAO may have you enter into a contribution agreement, which means that LAO covers your legal costs but you have to pay back some or all of this money in the future.

You can get more information from the LAO website:

You can also talk to someone at LAO by calling 1-800-668-8258.

LAO has special services to help people who have been subjected to domestic violence. If the worker taking your application does not ask if you have been subjected to abuse, you need to provide that information.

Because your legal aid certificate may not cover all the legal issues you are dealing with, you should ask both LAO and your lawyer to explain exactly what is and is not covered.

Even if something is not covered when you get your legal aid certificate, your lawyer can request additional coverage as your case progresses. The lawyer writes an opinion letter to LAO explaining why they need additional time or need to assist you with an issue not already covered, and LAO makes a decision about whether or not to grant the lawyer’s request.

If your case has to go to trial, your lawyer will need to request coverage for this from LAO.

If you have received a legal aid certificate to pay for your lawyer, you have the same rights as someone who pays for a lawyer, and your lawyer has the same professional obligations and responsibilities.

Read about more Legal Aid Ontario services