Understanding How Legal Aid Works

Legal Aid is available to everyone.

Intimidated by high lawyer fees?

Overwhelmed with the legal process and unsure of how you’ll make ends meet? Legal help or Aid is a government provision to ensure can get legal Aid.

Legal Aid give you the fair trial protected by law. There are a range of services provided through legal aid.

If you have a family, criminal, or immigration problem, you can apply for consul from a legal aid lawyer.

If this is your first time applying for legal aid, you may have a lot of questions, and may be uncertain of how to proceed.

Continue reading to learn about the application process and answer any questions that may come up.

How it works

The objective of legal aid is to promote fairness in legal proceedings and helps ensure that economically disadvantaged people have access to justice.

Legal aid cost is shared federally.

Delivery of legal aid services is unique to individual states, provinces and regions.

The legal aid society is meant to prioritize identifying and assessing legal needs of low income individuals.

There are some application requirements you must meet before you can receive legal assistance.

The process can be overwhelming, but it is important to determine what documents you need, if you’re eligible, and if you’re receiving the appropriate guidance/representation.

Is Legal Aid right for You

Nothing is Free, this is a truth in many area’s including getting Legal Help.

While you either pay less or nothing for your Lawyer, there are two potential reasons for that.

#1: The lawyer is new and starting out. They are working for free to get experience.

Not always good news for you.

#2. They are required to have a certain amount of hours ProBono as part of their legal status.

This can be great for you.

Where to get Legal Aid

Legal aid assistance is available in numerous forms, including: legal representation, legal advice, legal information, document drafting and review, negotiation and research, connection to other services and/or referral to a lawyer, help in filling out forms.

If you qualify under financial eligibility guidelines, legal help is free.

There are cases where an individual in need of assistance is slightly over the guidelines and must pay a fee to the legal services society.

If you receive money in a settlement, you may have to repay some or all of the costs of your legal aid assistance.

Legal Aid helps with:

Legal problems covered by legal aid include:

  • criminal charges
  • mental health and prison issues
  • family problems
  • child protection matters
  • immigration problems.

Application process

There are many ways to apply for legal help to suit your needs.

You Apply over the phone, in person at a legal aid office, or in person at a courthouse location.

Apply over the phone if your area does not have a legal aid office available or if you are unable to go in person.

There are call centers that vary province by province and state by state.

Regardless of whether you’re applying in person or over the phone, you should have all financial and court information with you so that you can provide the details requested.

Be prepared to provide proof of your identity.

You can fax it in or drop it off at a later date.

Qualifying for legal aid

Do you qualify for legal aid?

Here are some guidelines and restrictions to help determine whether or not legal assistance is an option for you.

The main criteria are:

  • Only Legal issues covered by legal aid rules qualify.
  • Your net monthly household income and assets must be at or below legal aid financial guidelines.

Monthly income is calculated based on factors such as:

Employment income, social assistance benefits, Pension and Old Age Security benefits, disability benefits, child/spousal support, student loans, rental/boarding income, spouse/common-law income.

The calculations will not include Child Tax Benefits, GST payments, tuition or book fees under student loans, or children’s income.

Net Income

You Net Income includes all possible deductions.

Deductioins you can qualify for include mandatory pay deductions (income tax, EI), daycare expenses, Medical Plan payments, child/spousal payments, court fines that will result in incarceration if not paid, travel costs for child access, medical/dental expenses.

Household assets are used to ensure you qualify for Legal Aid.

Household assets include property, cash, RRSPs, boats, other vehicles.

If you own land, you will also need to provide an Assessment document and an up-to-date mortgage statement.

The net monthly income of your household must be at or below legal aid’s guideline that matches the number of people in your household.

What information do I need to give in my application?

You must provide Proof of income. Proof of income may consist of one or more of the following:

  • two recent pay stubs
  • a recent welfare stub
  • a recent income tax return or bank records.

Also required:

  1. You must provide proof for the value of your assets. This includes anything that you own that is worth money and could be converted to cash.
  2. any documents relevant to your case such as court orders or documents relating to your criminal charge.

You must also bring additional information to staff regarding

  • the legal problem
  • Net income
  • your savings
  • your assets.

It is important that all information provided is as complete and accurate as possible.

What Happens Next ?

You must research the requirements to understand what services are available and what is expected of the lawyer representing you.

Your lawyer sets up the meeting with you soon after your application is accepted.

The lawyer should ask you about your case and what results you would like to see from your case.

It is important that your lawyer explains and covers the following information –

  • confidentiality
  • your role and the lawyer’s role
  • the steps of the legal process
  • your legal options
  • your chances of getting what you want
  • the risks you face
  • the limits of your legal aid referral.

Lawyers Duties

Lawyers cannot do anything unethical or illegal but they should otherwise follow your instructions as to how you’d like your case dealt with.

If the lawyer finds your instructions to be unethical or illegal they should communicate that to you and explain why.

The lawyer should return your calls and should keep appointments with you.

You should expect good communication with respect to calls and meetings.

Your lawyer will keep you informed by explaining what’s happening with your case.

Your Lawyer will answer your questions and give you information you request (within reason).

Good communication includes letting you know if they have forgotten something or if they make a mistake.

If communication due to language is an issue, your lawyer should make sure you have access to an interpreter to facilitate the process.

The lawyer should explain whether or not you can appeal the result of your case if you are unhappy.

If for any reason you feel as though your lawyer has not/is not meeting these standards, you should discuss it with them as soon as possible.

If your issue is not settled you still have options.

You can appeal to the legal aid office and find out what your options are.

Working with Legal Aid

You must provide all information your lawyers asks for.

You Lawyer will need to meet with you to discuss the situation.

For example, it is your responsibility to ensure your lawyer has all the information about your case and that they are provided with relevant updates.

It’s important to remember that the lawyer is there to help you when providing information.

They need to know all of the facts regarding your case in order to best help.

Be as organized and prepared as possible when accessing legal aid services.

Take notes and keep copies of everything.

It is your responsibility to keep appointments with your lawyer and to maintain contact.

You must update the legal society with any change of information.  

You are required to attend court when court dates are set.

Your lawyer will send you notification and you must attend in person.

Failure to meet the responsibilities required of you in accepting legal aid assistance could result in cancellation of your legal aid assistance.

Appeal Steps if You don’t get approved?

If you get denied for legal aid you still have options, don’t be discouraged.

Our team can help you discover what other options you have.

When to Appeal Legal Aid Denial:

  • Appeal applications based on financial or legal eligibility
  • disagree with the terms of a contribution agreement
  • object to the cancellation of a legal aid certificate
  • disagree with the decision of an area committee.

Your right to appeal will be referenced on your refusal notice.

You can appeal to the area committee, then to the appeals department if necessary.

If your financial situation has changed since you applied, you can call for a legal reassessment.

Appeals must include a letter addressed to the legal aid office that includes your name, your client number, your current contact information including telephone number and address, and the reasons for your appeal.

Appeals aren’t conducted in person but are judged based on the written materials provided.

Your appeal must be received within a specific time frame.

Check with us to pursue your appeal options.

Even if your application for legal aid representation has been refused, you may still qualify for legal advice.

Free services often covered by legal aid include: Duty Counsel, Brydges Line, Advice counsel (telephone advice), Family LawLine.

Many of these options are provided over the phone.

The advice given is usually quite brief, but it can make a big difference in your legal case.

For legal advice assistance you also must past the financial eligibility test. Financial eligibility for legal advice is different from legal representation eligibility so it’s important to check.

In order to qualify for Legal Aid your net monthly household income must be below the amount stipulated by the legal aid society in your region.

Legal information

Most law societies provide free information services that may help you with your legal problem.

Legal information outreach workers are typically available to you in person and over the phone, and there are free publications available online that cover a number of legal topics.

At any point in your legal proceedings you can request to access information.