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Finding Legal Help in Ontario
This guide has been prepared by the Bora Laskin Law Library to help people find a lawyer or other legal support to help resolve legal problems.
The staff at the Bora Laskin Law Library cannot provide legal advice. We will provide some direction to thosepatrons conducting their own legal research. Due to our limited resources, there may also be times when we cannot help members of the public directly
People sometimes come to the library with problems that cannot be resolved by research alone. Successful resolution of these problems involves additional steps, and each step may require technical know-how. Because experience in these steps is a great asset, most people entrust the process to a lawyer. At the very least, some basic legal advice is usually a necessity for anyone preparing for court.
Lawyers, of course, can be expensive, but this is not always so. Many government programs offer legal help for free or at reduced rates for people on a budget. If you have a legal problem and need legal help, please consider taking advantage of one or more of the following services.
This service provides free, easy to understand general information on a large number of topics in35 different areas of law. Users should be aware that this site provides legal information and not legal advice. It is difficult to tell when the information was most recently updated and many of the topics are under construction but nevertheless, the information that is provided can be very useful in learning to understand your topic.
A 24 hour touch tone version of this service is available by phone at (416) 929-8400.
The Law Society of Upper Canada provides a no-obligation lawyer referral service.
Call 1-800-268-8326 or 416-947-3330 (within the GTA), 9 to 5 Monday to Friday.
When you contact the service a Client Services Representative will conduct a short interview and then will give you the names of one or more lawyers near you who practice in the area of law relevant to your problem. You can then call one of these lawyers and arrange a thirty-minute free consultation after which time you can decide whether or not to hire that lawyer or consider other options.
Legal Aid Ontario provides legal assistance for low-income people in the province.
In Metro Toronto, call 416-979-1446, elsewhere in Ontario call: 1-800-668-8258.
LAO's website provides answers to any questions you might have, including explanations of the financial eligibility requirements, the location of their offices, and what you can do if you do not qualify for legal aid.
Law Help Ontario provides information and resources for those who cannot afford a lawyer but are not eligible for Legal Aid. In Toronto and Ottawa. LHO operates self-help centres for low income, self- represented litigants appearing before Superior Court or Small Claims Court in civil matters - not including family or criminal law.
Provides online information on Law Help Ontario services via Ask LawHelpLive on Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays from 1pm - 4pm
If you do not qualify for legal aid, you may wish to consider contacting the applicable community legal clinic from the list below. Many of these clinics have their own eligibility requirements, so you will need to check directly with the clinic to see if they will be able to represent you. One general requirement is based on residency — you must ordinarily attend the clinic nearest to where you live. List of community legal clinics in Ontario .
There are a number of legal clinics operated by University of Toronto law students under the supervision of qualified professors or other staff. Each clinic may have slightly different eligibility requirements. Please contact the most applicable clinic to see if you qualify for their services.
Downtown Legal Services
Appointments are required, and can be made by calling (416) 978-6447
Downtown Legal Services is a community legal clinic operated by the University of Toronto's Faculty of Law. Free legal services are provided by law students, who are supervised by lawyers. The clinic offers legal advice and representation for problems in a number of areas of law, including criminal law, tenants' rights, family law, refugee law, and university affairs. Other legal services include public legal education, test case litigation and law reform activities. DLS also has three satellite clinics in the community at Red Door Family Shelter, The Lunch Program, and MealTrans.
Advocates for Injured Workers
Advocates for Injured Workers (A.I.W.) is a small student legal clinic that specializes in Workers Compensation and Canada Pension Plan Disability claims. Students working at the clinic are supervised by a staff lawyer from the Industrial Accidents Victims Group of Ontario but have full responsibility for files including the preparation and presentation of appeals before the Workers Compensation Board and the Workers Compensation Appeals Tribunal.
Centre for Spanish-Speaking Peoples
The Centre for Spanish-Speaking Peoples serves immigrants from over fifteen Spanish-speaking countries. As a result, a substantial amount of the casework is in the area of immigration law. Students are supervised by staff lawyers, but are responsible for managing files, setting court dates and representing clients before boards, tribunals and provincial courts.
The Metropolitan Toronto Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children (METRAC) is a non-profit organization committed to the right of women and children to live their lives free of violence and the threat of violence. They are located at 158 Spadina Road, Toronto ON M5R 2T8, Tel: 416-392-3135 or 1-877-558-5570, Fax: 416-392-3136. Site includes a link a bookmark with an excellent collection of emergency telephone numbers.
The Ontario Women's Directorate is a government run website that provides information on the social, economic and legal rights of women. The site also provides resources and information for "Women Expericening Violence & Women in Crisis"
The Family Transition Place describes itself as providing "safe shelter, support and counselling to abused women and their children." Their mission is to work in the community to end violence against women. The address is 20 Bredin Parkway, Orangeville, ON L9W 4Z9. They serve primarily the County of Dufferin and the Town of Caledon. Contact (519) 941- HELP (4357) or 1-800-265-9178.
Available in a number of languages, Shelternet offers
The Ontario Human Rights Commission is a statutory body with the mandate of enforcing the Ontario Human Rights Code and of promoting human rights in Ontario. The extensive website above provides information on the Commission and the commissioners, the complaint process, summaries of legal decisions and other related information. Members of the public may initiate inquiries by calling the Commission at 1-800-387-9080.
The Ombudsman investigates complaints against provincial government organizations. When the Ombudsman finds something wrong, he or she can make recommendations to fix the problem, and if these are not acted upon, she can report the case to the Legislature. The Ombudsman can also help resolve complaints informally. Ontario's Ombudsman is an Officer of the provincial Legislature who is independent of the government and political parties.
Three other public-access libraries in the Greater Toronto Area have large collections of legal resources. Like the Bora Laskin Law Library, however, the libraries below may not have the resources and staff to take you through each step in the research process.
The Toronto Reference Library is located at 789 Yonge Street, Toronto ON M4W 2G8. The main phone line is 416-393-7131 and the hours and location line is 416-393-7196. The catalogue is available online at the site above. Most materials are for use only in the library and cannot be signed out. Most law-related materials are found in the Main Reference area on the second floor.
The York University Law Library is located in the Osgoode Hall Law School at York University, 4700 Keele Street Toronto, M4K 1C2. The library has the largest law collection in all of Canada. While its primary focus is to serve York's law students and faculty, the library is open to the public. More information about hours and the collection can be found at the website above.
Self-Counsel Press publishes various paperback books on a variety of legal topics. These books relatively inexpensive, are written in plain English by lawyers, and can be found in most bookstores or ordered through the company's website at the URL above. Alternatively, you may find that your local library carries several titles from this publisher. In many cases, the information in these books will answer your legal questions, and even if they do not and you are required to hire a lawyer, you will be better informed about your rights and will likely save on legal fees. Titles from this publisher include the following subjects (Note: Always make sure you are reading the most current edition):