What Services are Provided?

We provide legal representation primarily in criminal and family law cases. Financial, service coverage, and merit qualifications must be met.

In the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) and in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM), NSLA offers Duty Counsel Lawyers. Duty Counsel lawyers are onsite at the Provincial Courts and the Supreme Courts (Family Division). Duty Counsel will assist persons with their matters presently before the court but do not provide continuing representation. Services are provided to adults and young persons in custody as well as those not in custody. In the Family Division, unrepresented individuals can make arrangements to consult with Summary Advice Counsel for summary advice. Summary Advice Counsel services are also provided at the Port Hawkesbury Court one day a month.  No financial eligibility test is required by persons seeking the services of Duty Counsel. Further information regarding the particulars of each service is available at the courthouses.

Business Hours Telephone Duty Counsel (BHTDC) and After Hours "Brydges" Duty Counsel (AHTDC) is available to arrested or detained persons in Nova Scotia 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This service is designed to satisfy the right to counsel under Section 10(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If you have been arrested or detained, the officer is to initially place the call to Duty Counsel using the appropriate Duty Counsel telephone number (BHTDC or AHTDC). Once the officer has provided Duty Counsel with the information required, the individual will speak to Duty Counsel. Please note that this service is only available to individuals being arrested or detained and no financial eligibility test is required by persons seeking the services of Duty Counsel. 

Criminal legal aid (adult and young person) is available for:

  • Offences for which there is a reasonable likelihood that upon conviction there will be a sentence of custody or imprisonment;
  • For Youth Court matters, representation for Youth Criminal Justice Act, Criminal Code and other Federal Legislation offences are provided regardless if there will be a sentence of custody or imprisonment;
  • Proceedings pursuant to Part XXX.i of the Criminal Code (Mental Disorder) including representation before the Nova Scotia Review Board;
  • Such other matters under the Criminal Code or other Federal Legislation where counsel is deemed necessary by the Nova Scotia Legal Aid Commission;
  • Nova Scotia Legal Aid will not generally represent either the complainant or the defendant in private prosecution matters or for matters pursuant to provincial legislation such as Motor Vehicle Act, Liquor Control Act, Wildlife Act, etc.   Although full-service representation is not available for charges under provincial legislation, summary advice may be provided to youth facing such charges.


Family legal aid is available for:

  • Child protection proceedings under the Children and Family Services Act;
  • Matters under the Domestic Violence Intervention Act;
  • Custody, access, maintenance/support, paternity, some divorces and division of property;
  • Divorces involving the division of matrimonial property or pensions will not be undertaken where the Staff Lawyer is of the opinion that the applicant for service can otherwise obtain legal service by paying a fee from the proceeds of the property/pension division to a private lawyer;

Applications for family legal aid services where there is domestic violence involved shall be handled in priority to applications for legal aid services not involving domestic violence.


Poverty Law:

Effective November 25th, 2010, NSLA Offices are now providing summary advice service in relation to issues in the following areas of law: Canada Pension Disability (CPP); Employment Insurance (EI); Income Assistance (IA); and, Residential Tenancies (RT).  This is an initiative meant to assist qualified legal aid clients.  Individuals can contact their local office to make application for summary advice.


Other civil legal aid:

  • Legal aid services may be provided for matters under the Adult Protection Act;
  • Matters under the Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment Act;
  • Poverty administrative law (i.e. Income Assistance appeals, Residential Tenancies, CPP Disability, Employment Insurance) summary advice.

Civil non-family legal aid services may be provided in the following areas depending upon availability of resources:

  • Civil actions where the Staff Lawyer is of the opinion that there is merit and where failure to defend or prosecute the action will result in the loss of the applicant’s sole place of residence or otherwise cause undue hardship to the applicant or the applicant’s family;
  • Summary legal advice including advice on debtor/creditor matters;
  • Administrative law matters including representation before Administrative Boards and Tribunals include Welfare Appeal Boards, and Tribunals under the Employment Insurance Act and Canada Pension Plan Act.


Legal Aid will not provide civil and criminal representation in areas such as:

  • Real estate transactions (except as incidental to matrimonial property divisions);
  • Estates and trusts;
  • Legal services arising out operation of a business;
  • Representation in bankruptcy, orderly payment of debts or debt collection;
  • Civil non-family matters which, if the claim is successful, the applicant could pay legal fees out of the amount recovered from the action;
  • Cases of Small Claims Court unless, in the opinion of a Staff Lawyer, service should be provided as being a civil action with merit and where failure to defend or prosecute the action will result in the loss of the applicant’s sole place of residence or otherwise cause undue financial hardship;
  • Matters under the Federal Immigration Act including Refugee Hearings;
  • Provincial offences.