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How to Find a Lawyer?

Legal Services

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How do I find a lawyer? Finding the right lawyer is very important. Here are a few ways to get started:

  1. ask friends, colleagues and family if they know a lawyer they could recommend
  2. ask a settlement worker or a member of a social service agency for suggestions
  3. look in the Yellow Pages under "Lawyer"
  4. contact the Lawyer Referral Service run by the Law Society of Upper Canada
  5. visit website listings for law firms and lawyers

It is important to find a lawyer who practices the type of law related to your situation. For example, for assistance with the immigration process, you need a lawyer who practices immigration law. You might also want to find a lawyer who speaks your first language.

Most lawyers will offer a free consultation. They will briefly listen to your problem and tell you if they are qualified to help you. A lawyer must tell you if he or she cannot help with your particular problem.

You should also feel comfortable with your choice of lawyer. If you don't feel comfortable after the consultation, call another lawyer.

Directory of Certified Specialists

The Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC), the governing body for Ontario lawyers, has created a directory of lawyers in Ontario who meet certain standards and reputation.

The Certified Specialist Program recognizes members of the Law Society who have met established standards of experience and knowledge requirements in specific areas of law and have maintained exemplary standards of professional practice.

Find out more about the Specialist Program and view a list of lawyers in specific categories.

Costs

When you go see a lawyer, you should ask for an estimate of what the work will cost. Fees vary. Sometimes, you pay a set fee for a particular task; other lawyers charge an hourly rate.

You may also have to pay disbursements. This is what lawyers charge to cover expenses, such as the cost of faxing, photocopying or ordering official documents on your behalf.

If you cannot pay for a lawyer:

  1. Apply for a legal aid certificate. Legal Aid Ontario certificates are awarded based on financial need and based on the seriousness of your legal problem. Not all lawyers accept certificates.
  2. Make an appointment with your local Community Legal Clinic. You do not need a certificate and, if you are eligible (based on financial need), the clinic's services are free.

You can find more information on legal aid programs and Community Legal Clinics.

Lawyer Referral Service (LRS)

The Lawyer Referral Service (LRS) can give you the phone number of a lawyer in your area who practises the type of law related to your situation. You can also ask the LRS to find a lawyer who speaks your first language.

You can call the lawyer for a consultation of up to 30 minutes. During this consultation, you can ask:

  1. How does the law apply to my situation?
  2. How can I use the law to solve my legal problem?
  3. How long will the legal work take?
  4. How much will the lawyer charge?

You do not have to hire this person as your lawyer. You cannot, however, ask the LRS for a second referral for the same legal problem. You can only call them once for a referral for the same issue.

This service is free. It will not cost you anything to get the referral for a lawyer or for the 30 minute consultation.

Call 1-800-268-8326 or 416-947-3330 (within the GTA).

You can also use this service if you are in a crisis situation, for example, if you are in a shelter, in jail, or have no fixed address. Tell the person on the phone if you cannot wait 3 days for a referral or if you cannot safely receive a return phone call. In these cases, they will give you the numbers of 3 lawyers that you can try to call.

Working With a Lawyer

You can do simple things to get the best results from your lawyer. For more information, read How do I work effectively with a lawyer?

For more information

  1. Canadian Bar Association - Ontario (CBA-O) - The CBA-O's membership includes practising lawyers, non-practising lawyers, law students and judges. The Web site includes information on current discussions with government about the role and regulation of paralegals in Ontario.
  2. CLEO - Legal Services Information - Clear language publications on getting legal help.
  3. CLEO - Immigration and Refugee Law - Clear language publications on legal topics relating to immigrants and refugees.
  4. Justice Ontario - This website has information about Ontario's legal system, including family and criminal law, lawsuits, human rights, wills and estates, and tickets and fines. Provided by the Ministry of the Attorney General.
  5. Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) - The governing body for Ontario lawyers. The Law Society regulates the practice of law in Ontario and protects members of the public when they hire a lawyer. The LSUC site includes a public legal information section that provides introductory information on several legal topics including finding a lawyer, legal aid, family law and criminal law.
  6. Lawyer Referral Service (LRS) - This service is a convenient way to find a lawyer who practices the type of law you need, who speaks your language and whose office is close to you. The Law Society's LRS page explains how the service works and provides information on the limits of the program.
  7. Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) - Provides access to legal services for people who are unable to afford them on their own. The Web site includes the LAO newsletter, publications, frequently asked questions and legal aid clinic listings.
  8. Refugee Lawyers Association (RLA) of Ontario - This site, provides "country profiles" to help illustrate why people from a particular country might claim refugee status. The Web site also includes human rights research links and the RLA's reaction to recently proposed federal immigration legislation.


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