Finding a Lawyer
How Can I get a Lawyer?
Locating and hiring a lawyer can be a difficult and daunting process, especially if you have limited financial means. The resources below are meant to help you make the decision to hire a lawyer, and then to find a lawyer that you trust and can afford.
Civil and Criminal Lawyers
The Lawyer Referral Service is a telephone line that will put you in contact with lawyers who may be able to provide legal services. It works as follows: you call the Lawyer Referral Service line, and after you describe your legal problem to the operator, they will give you the names and telephone numbers of up to three lawyers practicing in the area of law that best suit your needs. You can then make appointments to talk to any or all of these lawyers. When you talk to each lawyer, the first half-hour of the conversation is free. If both you and the lawyer are comfortable working with each other, you can arrange to have the lawyer take your case. The remaining relationship will not be free, it will be subject to the retainer agreement between you and that lawyer.
Legal Aid Alberta gives low-income people access to a range of legal services to meet their legal needs. It can include everything from advice and guidance to full representation. You must qualify for legal aid -- meaning, you have to satisfy their criteria to qualify as a low income individual.
Calgary Legal Guidance provides legal information and advice to low-income people who cannot afford a lawyer and don’t qualify for Legal Aid.
These organizations are volunteer legal clinics operated by law students in association with the University of Calgary and University of Alberta. They provide Legal assistance and representation for those who are unable to afford the services of a lawyer.
Additional Criminal Legal Safeguards
Duty counsel is a legal aid service that provides free legal advice and assistance to people without a lawyer who are making their initial court appearance in a criminal matter. You access duty counsel directly at the courthouse where the matter is being heard. You must ask to speak to duty counsel.
If you have been denied legal aid, but you cannot afford a lawyer, you may have a constitutional right to be appointed a lawyer. The Charter will guarantee you a lawyer if:
- You have been charged with a crime;
- You cannot afford a lawyer; and
- You are facing a serious and complex charge.
If you meet these criteria, but have been denied a lawyer, you can make an application to Court to have one appointed. The Law Society of British Columbia prepared a checklist for this application (known as a Rowbotham Application after the legal case which created it). While this pamphlets geared to the British Columbia legal system, the mechanics of the application are the same in Alberta.
The Pamphlet can be accessed here. In addition, there are details on making the application in Alberta here.
Additional Legal Resources
Dial-A-Law is a free service operated by Calgary Legal Guidance that provides automated general information on a wide variety of legal issues relating to Alberta Law. You can access it any time of day, year round.