Getting legal help
Community and specialty clinics
Community legal clinics offer a variety of services to low-income Ontarians. Services include:
- legal representation in courts and tribunals
- legal advice
- public legal education
- referrals to other social assistance programs
- community organization and development
- law reform, and test case litigation
- brief services, where representation is inappropriate or unavailable
What areas of law do clinics cover?
Clinics provide legal help for low-income people and communities with issues that involve basic needs, such as access to housing, health care and education. Available services vary according to each clinic’s resources. Some of the legal matters that clinics cover include:
- workplace safety
- appeals at the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board
- Employment Insurance appeals
- insurance claims for long-term benefits, such as Ontario Disability Support Program
- Canadian Pension Plan appeals or issues
- Power of Attorney, wills or estates (at a limited number of clinics)
- legal representation and appeals at the Landlord and Tenant Board
Clinics provide help in other areas of law, depending on local needs. However, they do not assist with most criminal or family legal matters.
About legal clinics
Community legal clinics are non-profit legal centres. They are governed by an independent board of directors who are representative of the community they serve. Clinics employ lawyers, legal workers, paralegals and administrative staff to provide information, legal advice and representation.
Clinics deliver services within a specific geographic area or community, and work at a “grass-roots” level to help people in their area. Community legal clinics receive most of their funding from Legal Aid Ontario, and provide services that are different from, but complementary to Legal Aid Ontario services.
There are 76 legal clinics across the province, including 17 specialty clinics. Many clinics operate “satellite” clinics in the towns near their main location. These satellite clinics are usually open once a week or month. Contact a community legal clinic near you for more information.
Unlike Legal Aid Ontario, community legal clinics do not issue certificates. Clinics do not usually charge legal fees, but they may ask clients who have the money to pay some or all of the expenses of a case, such as court filing fees and medical expenses.
Some specialty clinics deal with a certain area of law, such as workers compensation, or workers' health and safety. Other specialty clinics represent specific individuals or communities, such as seniors, disabled persons, or urban Aboriginals.
There are 17 specialty clinics, which serve clients from across the province. Most specialty clinics cannot help walk-in clients. You should call the clinic first to see if it can help you.
See a list of specialty clinics.