Getting legal help

Types of help

Legal Aid Ontario provides many programs and services to help low-income people who need legal aid. You must be financially eligible to qualify for these services, and your legal matter must be one that Legal Aid Ontario covers. Our programs and services include the following.

Toll-free telephone services

Call Legal Aid Ontario toll-free to speak to legal aid staff, and access a wide range of legal aid services, information and advice. Help is available Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The best time to call is between 9 a.m. 10 a.m.

Duty counsel services

Duty counsel are lawyers who give immediate legal assistance to low-income people appearing in court without a lawyer. If you have a criminal or family law issue, you should speak to duty counsel before your court appearance. Duty counsel can:

  • give advice about legal rights, obligations and the court process;
  • provide assistance in the courtroom for bail hearings and sentencing;
  • assist with diversion, guilty pleas, and adjournments.

Find out more about how duty counsel can help you.

Courthouse offices

If you need to speak to someone in person, you can talk to a legal aid worker at one of our many courthouse offices. Depending on your legal issue, the legal aid worker may refer you to duty counsel, help you apply for legal aid, or direct you to another service.

Legal aid workers are not available in all courthouses. In some communities, the legal aid office is located outside of the courthouse.

Community and specialty clinics

Legal help is available to low-income people through 76 independent community legal clinics in Ontario, including 17 specialty clinics.

Community legal clinics provide services for legal issues such as:

  • tenant rights
  • Ontario Works and Welfare
  • Ontario Disability Support Program
  • government pensions
  • immigration
  • employment insurance
  • workplace safety and insurance
  • Workers' Compensation
  • employment rights
  • criminal injuries compensation
  • human rights

Contact a community legal clinic directly to see if you are eligible for their services.

Representation by a lawyer the certificate program

Legal Aid Ontarios certificate program covers the cost of a lawyer. You can apply for the certificate program if you are financially eligible, and your legal matter is covered by LAO. The certificate acts as a voucher, guaranteeing that the lawyer will be paid to represent you for a certain number of hours. Certificates are only for the most serious cases; for example, for criminal charges where a jail sentence is likely, or serious family problems.

Lawyers who represent legal aid clients must belong to the panel(s) for the type(s) of law they practice. Ontario had 5,007 panel lawyers eligible to take certificates, as of Sept. 25, 2014. The chart below shows how many lawyers were on each panel, as of Sept. 25, 2014. Please note that lawyers can serve on more than one panel.

Panel lawyers

Type of panel

Number of lawyers

Administrative Board / Tribunal 1,097
Consent & Capacity Board 345
Complex Criminal Rate 116
Child and Family Services Act 1,415
Civil litigation 1,206
Collaborative family law 22
Criminal 2,850
Extremely serious matters 861
Family 2,287
Gladue 1,361
Mental health 183
OConnor Mills 165
Ontario Review Board 563
Other duty counsel 5
Refugee 668

Number of certificates issued 2009 to 2014, by area of law

Area of law


















Immigration & refugee






Other civil






Total certificates issued






Francophone legal advice line

French-speaking clients can now get free, confidential advice and referrals by telephone for many of the legal issues covered by community legal clinics. Advice lines are available in Southwestern Ontario, Eastern Ontario, Northern Ontario and parts of central Ontario, and the Greater Toronto Area.

Find out more about the francophone legal advice lines.

Student Legal Aid Services Societies

Student Legal Aid Services Societies (SLASS), funded by Legal Aid Ontario, operate out of Ontario's six law schools. With the supervision of full-time lawyers, volunteer law students provide legal advice and represent clients in cases such as:

  • minor crimes
  • landlord and tenant issues
  • immigration
  • tribunals, including the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

See the full list of SLASS locations.

Family law services

Family Law Information Centres (FLIC) and advice lawyers

Family Law Information Centres offer free assistance and information on family law issues.

At the FLIC, you can find brochures and information about family law in Ontario, or speak with an advice lawyer. These are lawyers who provide general legal advice, and can help with preparing documents.

See a complete list of the FLIC offices.

Family Law Service Centres

Family Law Service Centres (FLSCs) offer eligible clients a range of legal resources and support for family matters, including:

  • help with documents
  • referrals to advice counsel
  • full representation in family law cases by a staff lawyer
  • referral to a private lawyer who does legal aid work, if eligible
  • mediation and settlement conferences.

Find out more about Family Law Service Centres.

Legal Aid Ontario law offices

Legal Aid Ontario funds a refugee law office, staffed by lawyers and support staff who can help eligible clients with their legal aid issues. Free online legal information resource

LawFacts is a free online legal information resource for individuals with questions about criminal law in Ontario.

If you’re going to criminal court for the first time, have a loved-one who has been arrested, or simply want to know more about criminal law, LawFacts can help explain in plain-language many aspects of criminal law.

LawFacts does not provide legal advice, and is not a substitute for advice from your lawyer or duty counsel, but it will help explain the justice system so that you can make more informed choices about your next steps.

Legal Aid Ontario (LAO), an independent but publicly funded and publicly accountable non-profit corporation. None of this material may be commercially reproduced, but copying for other purposes, with credit, is encouraged.

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