There are different ways to get help with your legal problem, including free legal information, legal advice, or legal representation in court.
Government-funded legal aid
You may have heard of “legal aid” which is legal advice or legal representation by a lawyer who is paid by the BC government. These legal services are arranged by the Legal Services Society of BC. The Legal Services Society will pay for a lawyer to represent you if:
Legal problems that may be covered by legal aid include:
If you don't qualify for representation by a government legal aid lawyer, you may still be eligible for legal advice services provided by the Legal Services Society, including:
Pro bono Legal Services
“Pro bono” is a Latin term that is used to describe free professional services. Pro bono legal services means that the lawyer does the legal work for free.
Pro bono is different from government funded legal aid, although many lawyers help clients both ways by taking cases at the government’s legal aid rate or simply doing it for free. Pro bono services from lawyers take many forms, such as legal advice, legal representation, giving advice to not-for-profit organizations, and doing public legal education seminars.
It has been a tradition for lawyers to give legal advice or representation to some clients for free because of the importance of ensuring access to justice – and where it is clear that there is merit to the case and that the client is not able to pay any fee. You may be able to find a lawyer who will help without payment simply by approaching a lawyer and explaining your situation.
Lawyers also give pro bono help through legal groups that have been specifically set up to match lawyers with clients who need pro bono help. Often, the lawyers that work through pro bono organizations are only able to provide limited advice at community advice clinics, but sometimes they can give part or full legal representation services.
The Access Pro Bono Society of BC can find you a lawyer who will help you with part or full legal services. Look for information about its range of services and the location of legal advice clinics around BC. Or, you can phone Access Pro Bono for more information.
When you go to a pro bono legal clinic, you will have an opportunity to discuss your legal problem with a lawyer for 30 minutes, and find out what your options are for taking the next step in your case. You can return to the clinic for more advice another time, but it is not likely that you will meet with the same lawyer. When you meet with a lawyer at the clinic, you can find out your options for further pro bono legal services, including full legal representation.
Before going to get pro bono legal advice at a clinic, use a worksheet to prepare for your meeting so that you get the most from your 30 minute appointment. (See Worksheet #1: Meeting with a Lawyer.)