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Hiring a lawyer

How do I find my own lawyer?

It can be hard to find a lawyer, especially one that is right for you. Here are a few ways to start:

Legal Aid Ontario

Legal Aid Ontario gives legal help to people with very low incomes.

To get help with a criminal law problem, you must apply to Legal Aid Ontario for a legal aid certificate.

If you get a certificate, this means that Legal Aid Ontario will pay a lawyer to work for you for a certain number of hours.

Not all lawyers will take a legal aid certificate. You have to find a lawyer who agrees to work for you and will take the legal aid certificate.

Who is eligible?

To get a legal aid certificate, your legal issue must be one that they cover, and you must be financially eligible. Usually, this means that you have little or no money left after paying for basic things like food and housing.

You'll have to give information about any income, property, or savings that you and your parents or guardiansA guardian is a person who is responsible for making decisions about and caring for a young person.X have. You also have to give information about what crimes you're charged with.

If you're in the care of the Children's Aid Society, you'll only have to give your financial information.

Legal Aid Ontario may also ask your parents or guardiansA guardian is a person who is responsible for making decisions about and caring for a young person.X to give them information about their finances. If your parents or guardians won't do this, you'll need to tell Legal Aid Ontario that they won't.

Even if your parents or guardiansA guardian is a person who is responsible for making decisions about and caring for a young person.X won't give their financial information or if Legal Aid Ontario tells you that you're not eligible for a legal aid certificate, insist on applying anyway.

If they reject your application, there are 2 ways that you can try to get a lawyer:

  1. You can appealTo appeal means that you disagree with a decision and are asking that someone with more authority review the decision. Others who are affected by the decision can also appeal a decision.X the decision.
  2. You can go to a youth court and ask the court to order the government to pay for your lawyer. The law gives extra protection to young people who are charged with a crime so they'll be able to get help from a lawyer.

How?

Visit the Legal Aid Ontario website to find out how to apply.

Apply by phone

Call 1-800-668-8258 or 416-979-1446.

For TTY, call 1-866-641-8867 or 416-598-8867.

Legal Aid Ontario accepts collect calls.

Call between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday to Friday. At other times, you'll get information from a recorded message.

Calls generally take around 30 minutes, but can take longer. It's best if your parents or guardiansA guardian is a person who is responsible for making decisions about and caring for a young person.X also speak to the Legal Aid Ontario representative.

After the call, Legal Aid Ontario will send you forms to sign, date, and send back. Make sure that you give your correct address so that you get the forms as quickly as possible.

Apply in person

You may be able to apply in person at some Legal Aid Ontario or duty counsel offices. These offices are in criminal courthouses across the province.

Be prepared to wait to speak to a Legal Aid Ontario representative. It's best if your parents or guardiansA guardian is a person who is responsible for making decisions about and caring for a young person.X go with you.

It's a good idea to bring identification, such as your health card or driver's licence, and any papers from the police or the court that relate to your case.

Law Society Referral Service

The Law Society Referral Service is an online service that gives you the name of a lawyer in your community. The lawyer will talk to you for 30 minutes for free, either over the phone or in person.

You can ask questions like:

  • How does the law apply to my situation?
  • How much will you charge me?

Then you can decide if you want to hire that lawyer.

Who is eligible?

Anyone in Ontario can use the Law Society Referral Service.

How?

Visit the Law Society Referral Service website for more information.

You can also call their crisis line at 1-855-947-5255 if you can't use the online service. For example, you might do this if you're in custody, in a shelter, or in an area that doesn't have internet access.

Be sure to ask for a youth criminal justice lawyer. If you're under 18, make sure to tell them this.

Justice for Children and Youth

Justice for Children and Youth is a legal clinic that protects the rights of young people and helps young people with legal problems.

They have lots of helpful information for young people who are dealing with criminal law problems and other legal issues.

Who is eligible?

Any young person in Ontario who is under the age of 18 can get information and referrals from Justice for Children and Youth.

Young people up to age 25 who are homeless may also be able to get help.

Some young people may qualify for a lawyer from Justice for Children and Youth if they have a low-income and are under 18.

How?

Visit the Justice for Children and Youth website for more information.

Call 1-866-999-5329 or 416-920-1633.

(Reviewed October 2015)