Understanding Legal Aid

Understanding Legal Aid Ontario

What is Legal Aid Ontario?
Legal Aid Ontario provides legal assistance for low-income people who are eligible.
Services Include:

  • Legal representation for eligible clients who appear in court without a lawyer;
  • Legal aid applications and information over the phone;
  • Legal resources and referrals to other social assistance agencies; and
  • A certificate program for complex and serious cases.

Source: http://www.legalaid.on.ca/en/getting/default.asp


Are You Eligible for Legal Aid Services?

To qualify for legal aid services, you must be financially eligible, and your legal matter must be one that Legal Aid Ontario covers. Below is a table indicating the financial eligibility criteria currently in place for Legal Aid Applicants:

Family Size
(including parents $ children)

A=Adult - C=Child

Will likely qualify IF:
Annual Family Gross Income Below:

A contribution agreement might be required if annual family gross income is in this range:

Will not qualify if annual family gross income is above:



$10,800 - $12,500


AA or Ac


$18,684 - $22,500


AAc or Acc


$21,299 - $26,220


Source: http://www.legalaid.on.ca/en/getting/eligibility.asp


Certificate Services:
The certificate program allows eligible, low-income Ontarians to have full representation by a lawyer. Essentially,a certificate is a voucher guaranteeing that the lawyer will get paid for representing you for a certain number of hours (which is specified on the certificate).

Depending on your income, and whether you own property, you may qualify for a certificate with a contribution agreement. A contribution agreement would mean that you will repay Legal Aid Ontario, some or all of your legal fees.

Legal Aid may request monthly payments or lump sum payments. Legal Aid also has a right to recover the legal costs paid from any monies recovered in legal proceedings. Allow 5 working days for applications to be processed and 10 working days for the decision on the application to be mailed.
Source: http://www.legalaid.on.ca/en/getting/certificateservices.asp



Information required for financial assessment:
To assist you to prepare for your legal aid application, it may be of assistance to consider bringing one or more of the following items to assist in your financial assessment:

  • If you areworking - Bring 3-4 most recent pay slips for applicant and spouse, including verification of payroll deductions
  • If you are Unemployed - Bring record of employment or proof of receipt of Employment Insurance benefits
  • If you receive support from Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program - Bring most recent cheque stub.
  • If you have substantial debts - Bring verification and the monthly amount being paid.
  • If you are Self-Employed - Bring latest business statement, income tax returns
  • If you recently claimed Bankruptcy - Bring proof of trusteeship.
  • IncomeTaxReturn - Bring copy of most recent return.
  • If you are required to pay or receive child support or other court ordered support - Bring verification of payment.

Documents Required with Respect to Criminal Charges:

Criminal - Crown Screening Form and synopsis, if available.

Where Do You Apply? Where is the nearest legal aid office?
You can call 1-800-668-8258, to find out where the nearest office is, or you can check your phone books white or yellow pages under “Legal Aid” for the address of the legal aid office nearest you. Below is a list of Legal Aid offices to assist you in making your Application:


Metropolitan Toronto Legal Aid Information Chart










201-20 Dundas St. W.
Toronto ON.
M5G 2H1

(416) 598 - 0200

(416) 598 - 0558

8:00am-3:30pm daily

4:30am-6:30pm Tuesday*



1921 Eglinton Ave. E.
Scarborough, ON
M1L 1L6

(416) 750 - 7172

(416) 750 - 7184

8:30am-3:30pm daily

4:30am-6:30pm Monday*



101-5415 Dundas St. W
Etobicoke ON
M9B 1B5

(416) 237 - 1216

(416) 237 - 0301

Monday-Friday 8:30am-3:15pm

4:30am-6:30pm Wednesday*


North York

106-45 Sheppard Ave. E
North York, ON
M2N 5w9

(416) 730 - 1588

(416) 730 - 1625

Mon., Tues., Wed.,
and Fri. 8:30-3:15pm

4:30-7:00 Thursday*

46 + 51


Old City Hall
60 Queen St. W



8:00am-3:30pm daily

46 + 51


311 Jarvis



8:00am-3:30pm daily

46 + 51


College Park






2201 Finch Ave. W. Ste 126



Monday to Thursday 8:30am-3:00pm

Friday 8:30am-11:00am



1000 Finch Ave W.





What do you need to bring?
When you go to the legal aid office, you should take as much information with you as possible. For example:

  • Some form of identification (social insurance card, driver’s license, health card or landed immigrant papers)
  • Any documents relating to your case, such as court orders, separation agreements, a copy of the crown screening form (for criminal charges)
  • Proof of your current income if you have any (3-4 recent pay stubs, social assistance cheque stubs or Employment Insurance statements)
  • Up to date bankbook or bank statements
  • Proof of monthly expenses and bills (rent receipt or mortgage payment, hydro, gas, car payment receipts, credit card statements, car insurance bill)
  • Deed for your house
  • Proof of any unusual expenses (ie. medical costs).



After Applying for Legal Aid
You will receive a written notice with the decision within approximately two weeks. There are three possibilities:

  • Your application is accepted, and you receive a certificate;
  • Your application is accepted, but you only receive a certificate if you agree to the terms of a contribution agreement;
  • Your application is refused. In this case, the right to appeal, if one exists, is stated on the refusal notice, with information about where to send your appeal.

If the decision you disagree with was made by the district area director, you appeal first to the area committee, and then to the provincial appeals department.
However, if the first decision is made by the area committee, then you appeal directly to the provincial appeals department. Matters that go directly to the area committee are usually applications to appeal a court decision.


Refused because of income?
If you are refused legal aid because your income level is too high, and your income has gone down since you applied, send in your appeal notice within 15 days, and then contact Legal Aid Ontario at 1-800-668-8258 for a financial reassessment.


After Applying for Legal Aid
To appeal, you need to send a letter of appeal to the legal aid office listed on your notice, for consideration by the area committee. You must include the following information, in English or French:

  • Your name
  • Your client number - this appears at the top of the notice you received
  • Your current mailing address and telephone number
  • The reasons for your appeal

If you need more information about what to submit with your appeal, please contact the office listed on the notice, or call
. Fax or mail your appeal to the address of the legal aid office on your notice.
There are several important things to note:

  • Appeals are conducted based on your written information. You cannot attend the hearing in person.
  • Appeals will not be considered if your letter of appeal is received by Legal Aid Ontario more than 15 days from the date of the notice of refusal or cancellation that you received.
  • Please ensure that your letter of appeal reaches Legal Aid Ontario within these 15 days.

The following material will be provided to the area committee for consideration at the appeal:

  • Your letter of appeal;
  • Your financial information if you were refused for financial reasons;
  • Lawyer’s opinion letter (in some cases) or relevant correspondence;
  • Any transcripts which may be available;
  • Any further material you may submit in support of your appeal.

You will receive the outcome in writing. If you do not receive written notice of the decision within 10 days, contact Legal Aid Ontario at 1-800-668-8258.

Appealing to the provincial appeals department
If you disagree with an area committee decision, you can appeal to the provincial appeals department in Toronto. You can do this by submitting a letter or notice of appeal, giving all the reasons for the appeal. Information about where to appeal is included in the decision of the area committee. The director of appeals reviews your letter or notice, and all information considered by the area committee, before making a decision. The director of appeals then assesses the case and sends a written decision by mail, usually within two weeks of receiving complete information. The decision of the director of appeals is final, and there is no further right of appeal.



Standards for Legal Aid Lawyers
In order to ensure that all clients receive high quality legal aid services, Legal Aid Ontariohas implemented the following eight panel standards, which include minimum experience and professional development requirements. The standards were developed in consultation with members of the refugee, criminal and family bars as well as lawyers practicing before the Consent and Capacity Board, judges, lawyers' associations and the Law Society of Upper Canada.

Mr. Michael has not only met all minimum standards stipulated by Legal Aid but he has successfully defended the most serious offences in Criminal law, including first degree murder and offences involving firearms, and, as a result, he has been named to Legal Aid’s Extremely Serious Matters (ESM) Panel.  Although legal aid client’s are free to choose their own lawyers, in situations involving extremely serious charges, Legal Aid will only allow a client to select lawyers who have extensive trial experience before Courts composedof Judge and Jury.


If you do not qualify for Legal Aid, Where else can you get help?
If you do not qualify for Legal Aid, Community Legal Clinics may be able to help you. The clinics have lawyers and trained legal workers to give you advice and represent you. These clinics usually deal with housing, (landlord and tenant) social assistance (welfare), pension, Worker's Compensation, employment insurance and immigration and employment rights issues. You will have to complete a financial test to make sure you qualify for their service.

Here is a link that will assist you in finding community legal clinics closest to you: