Services for the Public > Access to Legal Services

Access to Legal Services

The Law Society supports a number of services that help to make sure the residents of Ontario are well served by their legal system. These include Law Society initiatives, as well as those of other organizations.

Law Society Initiatives
  1. Equity Initiatives Department
  2. Client Service Centre (CSC)
  3. Law Society Referral Service (LSRS)
  4. Certified Specialist Program
  5. Compensation Fund
  6. Archives Department
  7. Discrimination and Harassment Counsel (DHC)
Other Initiatives
  1. Pro Bono Law Ontario (PBLO)
  2. Pro Bono Students Canada (PBSC)
  3. Law Commission of Ontario
  4. Legal Aid Ontario (LAO)
  5. Ontario Justice Education Network (OJEN)
  6. Justice Ontario
  7. Legal Expense Insurance

Law Society Initiatives
  1. Equity Initiatives Department

    To ensure access to justice, the Law Society integrates equity and diversity values and principles into its model policies, services, programs and procedures. The Law Society seeks to ensure that both law and the practice of law are reflective of all peoples in Ontario by actively participating with Aboriginal, Francophone and equity-seeking groups, through consultations, meetings and public education activities. The Equity Initiatives Department also provides resources for members of the public and the profession, such as publications and reports.

     

    For more information:
    Phone: 416-947-3300 ext. 2153
    Toll free: 1-800-668-7380 ext. 2153
    Fax: 416-947-3983
    Email: equity@lsuc.on.ca
    Web information



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  2. Client Service Centre (CSC)

    Client Service Centre The Client Service Centre is the one-stop access point to help for members of the public, lawyers or students contacting the Law Society. Client Service Centre representatives provide immediate responses to basic questions or transfer callers directly to the appropriate department when more complex answers are required. The centre is open during regular business hours Monday through Friday.

    For more information:
    Phone: 416-947-3300
    Toll free: 1-800-668-7380
    Fax: 416-947-5263
    Contact Us form



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  3. Law Society Referral Service (LSRS)

    The Law Society Referral Service is a public service of the Law Society that helps people find a lawyer or paralegal. When you call the LSRS, we will provide you with the name of a lawyer or paralegal who will provide a free consultation of up to 30 minutes to help you determine your rights and options. You can access the service by calling:

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

     



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  4. Certified Specialist Program

    The Law Society's Certified Specialist program is intended to help members of the public identify lawyers who can meet their needs for specialist assistance in complex matters and to facilitate referrals by other lawyers and professionals. Specialists are evaluated initially and periodically, and in accordance with specified standards of knowledge, skill, conduct and practice. The program is voluntary, and no lawyer in Ontario is required to be certified as a specialist in order to practise in the area of law covered by that specialty. However, only those certified by the Law Society may refer to themselves as specialists in their advertising, and are included in the Law Society's Directory of Specialists. As of January 2000, the Law Society recognizes ten areas of law in which lawyers can be certified.

    The Directory of Certified Specialists  is available online. A paper directory may also be requested from the Client Service Centre.

    For more information contact the Client Service Centre or by email lawsociety@lsuc.on.ca.



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  5. Compensation Fund

    The Compensation Fund helps clients who have lost money because of the dishonesty of a lawyer or a paralegal. It is paid for exclusively by the lawyers and paralegals of Ontario, out of their own pockets, and over the years, has paid out millions of dollars to clients. If your claim is due to a lawyer's dishonesty, the present limit is $150,000 per claimant for claims involving funds advanced to a lawyer on or after April 24, 2008. (The per claimant limit for funds advanced prior to April 24, 2008 is $100,000.) If your claim is due to a paralegal's dishonesty, the present limit is $10,000 per claimant. Typical losses include theft of money from estates, from trust funds held for real estate closings, from settlements in personal injury cases and money embezzled in investment transactions.

     

    For more information, please call the Compensation Fund or contact us by email compfund@lsuc.on.ca

     

    Phone: 416-947-3343
    Toll-free: 1-800-668-7380 ext. 3343
    Fax: 416-947-3479



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  6. Archives Department

    Heritage Programs

    With their unique programs, the Corporate Records and Archives Department and the Office of the Curator promote access to justice by providing positive, accessible and entertaining opportunities for the public to learn about the Law Society, the legal profession and the justice system. Public tours and participation in events such as Doors Open Toronto allow individuals and groups to visit Osgoode Hall, including the courts. Exhibitions and online projects such as Crossing the Bar on women in the legal profession and Diversifying the Bar: Lawyers Make History deal specifically with equity issues.

    For more information call General Inquiries at the Law Society. 



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  7. Discrimination and Harassment Counsel (DHC)

    As part of the Law Society of Upper Canada's efforts to enable equity and diversity in the workplace and the profession, and to help stop discrimination and harassment, the Law Society provides a Discrimination and Harassment Counsel service free-of-charge to the Ontario public, lawyers and paralegals. The Discrimination and Harassment Counsel confidentially assists anyone who may have experienced discrimination or harassment by a lawyer or a paralegal or within a law firm or legal organization.

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Other Initiatives
  1. Pro Bono Law Ontario (PBLO)

    Pro Bono Law Ontario (PBLO) promotes access to justice in Ontario by creating and promoting opportunities for lawyers to provide pro bono (free) legal services to persons of limited means. PBLO develops projects individually for various law firms, legal departments and law associations. PBLO also administers three streams of projects in-house to assist low-income Ontarians:

    • Law Help Ontario helps low-income unrepresented litigants with civil, NON-FAMILY matters
    • The Child Advocacy Project helps at-risk children and youth
    • Volunteer Lawyers Services helps charitable organizations with corporate law issues.

    Information for lawyers about volunteer opportunities can be found online at: www.pblo.org/lawyers.Information for the public about projects and services can be found at www.lawhelpontario.org

    For more information:  

    Pro Bono Law Ontario

    393 University Avenue, Suite 110,

    Toronto, Ontario M5G 1E6

    Phone: 416-977-4448
    Toll free: 866-466-PBLO
    Email:  info@pblo.org



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  2. Pro Bono Students Canada (PBSC)

    Pro Bono Students Canada

    (PBSC) is a national pro bono organization with 21 chapters – one in every law school in Canada. PBSC’s mandate is to provide legal services without charge to organizations and individuals in need. PBSC programs have a direct impact on access to justice in Canada.  Each year, about 1,600 PBSC law student volunteers – fully a quarter of all law students in Canada – provide approximately 140,000 hours of free legal services to between 400-500 public interest and other community organizations, pro bono lawyers, courts and tribunals across the country. PBSC is involved in access to justice initiatives across Canada and runs a Public Interest Articling Fellowship Program, funded by the Law Foundation of Ontario, that provides students with an opportunity to article at a public interest organization that otherwise would not have the financial capacity to host an articling student.

    Please note that PBSC runs all of our programs in conjunction with partners and is not able to respond to individual requests for legal assistance or referrals.

    For more information please contact:

    Nikki Gershbain
    National Director
    Pro Bono Students Canada 
    39 Queen's Park Crescent East
    Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C3
    Email: nikki.gershbain@probonostudents.ca  



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  3. Law Commission of Ontario

    The Law Commission of Ontario (LCO) is an independent organization that researches issues and recommends law reform measures to make the law accessible to all Ontario communities. The LCO is funded by the Ministry of the Attorney General, the Law Foundation of Ontario, the Law Society and Osgoode Hall Law School, and is supported by the other Ontario law schools.

    Making the law work for all Ontarians requires listening to the voices of those directly affected by the law – inside and outside of the legal community. The LCO welcomes the input of all Ontarians and provides many ways to get involved on their website.  

    The LCO conducts research on a number of key projects throughout the year. The LCO approaches law reform as an activity that is centred on law, but that must involve multidisciplinary analysis and recommendations. Many of their major projects involve large social questions. This requires research using a combination of non-legal disciplines to complete the story – social, economic and, psychological, for example – to understand the impact of law on those affected. The multidisciplinary approach helps to provide context to:  

    • look beyond individual laws to analyze the broader social issues themselves
    • consider how Ontario laws impact those affected by these social issues
    • make recommendations to change these laws to better serve Ontarians
    For more information:

    Law Commission of Ontario
    Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
    2032 Ignat Kaneff Building, 4700 Keele Street
    Toronto, ON  M3J 1P3

    Tel: (416) 650-8406
    Toll Free: 1 (866) 950-8406TTY: (416) 650-8082
    Toll Free TTY: 1 (877) 650-8082 

     

    Fax: (416) 650-8418
    Email:  LawCommission@lco-cdo.org

     

     

     

     


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  4. Legal Aid Ontario (LAO)

    Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) The guiding principle behind almost 40 years of legal aid in this province has been that the legal system must be affordable and accessible to all Ontarians, regardless of their ability to pay. Today, Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) continues to play a vital role in our justice system, helping almost 1,000,000 people every year. Legal Aid clients are sometimes faced with the most serious and fundamental issues in life: loss of liberty, family breakdown, deportation, loss of income, loss of housing.

    For more information:
    Check the white pages in your phone book under "Legal Aid" for the local legal aid area office or community legal clinic, or visit the Legal Aid Ontario website.



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  5. Ontario Justice Education Network (OJEN)

    The Ontario Justice Education Network (OJEN), is a charitable organization that facilitates opportunities for students and others to develop an understanding of our justice system.

    OJEN is a collaborative network of organizations and individuals who work together at both the provincial and the local level to promote understanding, education and dialogue in support of a responsive and inclusive justice system. Membership on the network includes provincial legal institutions, government ministries, educational bodies and organizations involved in delivering justice education. The three chief justices of Ontario were OJEN's founding directors and remain members of the network.

    OJEN's flagship program, Courtrooms and Classrooms, aims to enhance students' understanding of the operation of the legal system through direct contact with members of the legal profession. The program includes bringing students to courtrooms, and lawyers and judges to classrooms. Other initiatives include Summer Law Institutes for teachers, Law Day activities, the development of curriculum resources, local mock trials, law symposia for students, Art in the Courts and local projects focused on marginalized communities.

    For more information:
    Sarah McCoubrey
    Executive Director

    Ontario Justice Education Network
    Osgoode Hall, 130 Queen St. West
    Toronto, Ontario
    M5H 2N6
    Phone: 416-947-5274
    Email: ojen@lsuc.on.ca



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  6. Justice Ontario

    The Justice Ontario website and hotline provide Ontarians with a one-stop entry point for accessing legal resources and basic information on the most common justice-related topics. A project of the Ministry of the Attorney General, it also provides easy access to legal resources such as lawyer referral services and family law information centres.

    A Justice Ontario Access Partnership of groups with expertise in all areas of the justice system, including the Law Society, has also been created to continually improve the website's content and to link the site to "next step" expertise.



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  7. Legal Expense Insurance

    The Law Society believes that legal expense insurance is a useful insurance product, with the potential to make legal services more accessible and affordable for people who don't qualify for legal aid.

    In July 2008, the "Report of the Legal Aid Review 2008," completed by Professor Michael Trebilcock, was publicly released by then-Attorney General, the Honourable Chris Bentley. Although the report focused specifically on legal aid in Ontario, it also made recommendations related to increasing access to legal services and information for all Ontarians.

    According to Professor Trebilcock, "[l]egal information and advice for the working poor and middle class of Ontario represent a means of providing limited amounts of service to a very substantial number of people. In many cases, however, limited service simply will not suffice. One underexplored method of providing access to justice is legal insurance."

    He concluded that "[t]he Law Society of Upper Canada and LAO [Legal Aid Ontario] should accord a high priority to promoting the role of legal insurance in Ontario."

    As a result, the Access to Justice bencher Committee undertook a review of legal expense insurance and insurance providers beginning in 2008. The Committee reported to Convocation several times throughout 2009 (January and April) and early 2010 (January) regarding its review of legal expense insurance in Ontario and in Quebec, where this product is well-established and owned by more than 100,000 households.

    The Law Society concluded that legal expense insurance, which affords consumer protection through regulation, is a viable product that can potentially increase access to legal information and services for many Ontario households.

    The Law Society actively supports access to legal services through a number of programs and partnerships including our Law Society Referral Service and Pro Bono Law Ontario.



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