Getting legal help

Certificate services

What is the certificate program?

The certificate program allows eligible, low-income Ontarians to have full representation by a lawyer. A certificate is a voucher guaranteeing that the lawyer will get paid for representing you for a certain number of hours. Certificates are only for the most serious legal matters.

Depending on your income, and whether you own property, you may qualify for a certificate with a contribution agreement. This means you will repay Legal Aid Ontario some or all of your legal fees.

Who can get a legal aid certificate?

To get help through the certificate program, you must take a financial test to see if you qualify. This means that:

  • your gross income from all sources is within the range in the chart below, and;
  • your legal problem is one that is covered by LAO.

The table below offers rough guidelines for the income levels needed to qualify for LAO’s certificate program.

Who can get a legal aid certificate?

Criminal charge eligibility

Get information about the types of criminal charges that may qualify for legal aid services.

How to use a certificate

If you receive a certificate to get a lawyer to represent you, you may take it to one of the nearly 4,000 Ontario private practice lawyers who take part in the legal aid certificate program.

The certificate is your lawyer’s guarantee of payment for helping you. Read more about finding a lawyer.

Contribution agreements

In some cases you may be asked to repay LAO some or all of your legal fees, based on your financial circumstances.

Find out more about contribution agreements and payment options.

If you are not eligible for the certificate program

If you are not eligible for LAO’s certificate program, there are other services available. See the community legal clinics page, information on duty counsel and our toll-free number, or family law services to learn more.

It is possible in some cases to appeal LAO’s decision relating to eligibility for the certificate program. See the "Making an appeal or complaint" page.