Legal Aid Services Provided
Nova Scotia Legal Aid (NSLA) offers some level of legal assistance to all Nova Scotians, including information, advice and full representation by a lawyer for qualified applicants. Full service is based on financial need, area of law requested and the merit of the case.
Legal information and resources are available on this site free. Please see “Legal Information” in the website menu.
Assistance from Duty Counsel Lawyers is available to all Nova Scotians facing a criminal or drug charges.
- Duty Counsel are courthouse-based lawyers. Duty Counsel offer legal advice only. They do not permanently represent you.
- In the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) and in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM), NSLA offers dedicated Duty Counsel Lawyers to give advice to people at court.
- Duty Counsel lawyers are onsite at Provincial Courts.
- You do not need to apply in advance for Duty Counsel Service. It is available to anyone who needs a lawyer.
- This service is also available at Provincial Courts across the Province.
- More information is available at the courthouses.
Summary advice is a one-time appointment with a lawyer to get advice or assistance with your case or issue
- In the Supreme Court Family Division, in both the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and the Halifax Regional Municipality, on-site Summary Advice Counsel is available for family law assistance.
- Available at Family Courts and Supreme Court (Family Division). Call your local office for details.
- Available in-office for one-time advice on criminal, family and social justice (income or housing issues) matters.
- Available in many First Nations and other communities throughout the Province.
Legal advice by telephone is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year if you have been arrested or detained.
- Business Hours Telephone Duty Counsel (BHTDC) is available during normal business hours.
- After Hours Telephone Duty Counsel (AHTDC) is available at all other times to arrested or detained persons 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. (Also called “Brydges” Counsel)
Full Representation by a Lawyer
- If you need a lawyer and can’t afford one, you may be able to get a Legal Aid lawyer to represent you.
- You must fill out an application and meet financial, area of law, and income requirements.
- NSLA only provides lawyers for certain types of law. Please see the list below.
Areas of Law Served by Nova Scotia Legal Aid:
- For offences that if convicted you may be sentenced to custody or imprisonment.
- For all Youth Court cases under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, Criminal Code and other Federal Legislation.
- Cases concerning Part XXX.i of the Criminal Code (Mental Disorder) including representation before the Nova Scotia Review Board.
- Any other cases under the Criminal Code, Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, or other Federal Legislation where NSLA believes legal counsel is necessary.
- NSLA will not normally provide representation in cases involving the Motor Vehicle Act, Liquor Control Act, Wildlife Act, etc. Legal advice (Duty Counsel) is available for such charges.
- Child protection cases under the Children and Family Services Act.
- Matters under the Domestic Violence Intervention Act.
- Child custody, access, child and spousal maintenance/support, paternity, some divorces and division of property. Applications for legal aid involving domestic violence are given priority.
- Divorces involving the division of matrimonial property or pensions will not be undertaken if NSLA believes the applicant can afford a lawyer from the proceeds of the property/pension in question.
- Summary advice is available to people who do not qualify for full-service representation.
Social Justice Law:
NSLA offers legal advice (Duty Counsel), and possibly full service representation, in the following areas of law: Canada Pension Disability (CPP); Employment Insurance (EI); Income Assistance (IA); Residential Tenancies (RT); and landlord/tenant. Contact your local legal aid office to apply.
NSLA helps Nova Scotians who are serving sentences or remanded in custody pending trial with a range of legal issues, including:
Criminal Law Services:
- Providing advice and/or representation on pending Criminal Code matters in Nova Scotia;
- Assisting with the transfer of Criminal Code charges from another jurisdiction to Nova Scotia;
- Advice and/or representation for individuals who have filed a prisoner appeal for a Nova Scotia criminal conviction;
- Advice and/or representation in a Criminal Code 745.6 review of parole ineligibility period “faint hope” application.
Civil/Family Law Services:
- Providing advice and/or representation in Family Court proceedings in Nova Scotia;
- Assisting with securing counsel for Family Court proceedings in another province;
- Providing advice on habeas corpus, disciplinary proceedings under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, parole and detention hearings;
- Providing general legal information and advice
Further information on NSLA’s Prison Law Initiative can be found here: Brochure – Prison Law
Other Areas of Law:
- Matters under the Adult Protection Act.
- Matters under the Adult Capacity and Decision Making Act.
- Matters under the Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment Act.
- Administrative law (i.e. Income Assistance appeals, Residential Tenancies, CPP Disability, Employment Insurance) summary advice.
Civil non-family legal aid in the following areas, depending upon availability of resources:
- Valid civil cases that could result in the applicant losing their only residence or cause undue hardship for their family.
- Summary legal advice on debtor/creditor matters.
Legal Aid will not provide full service civil and criminal representation in areas such as:
- Real estate transactions (except concerning matrimonial property divisions).
- Estates and trusts.
- Business operations.
- Representation in bankruptcy, orderly payment of debts or debt collection.
- Civil non-family legal services which could be paid for from a successful legal action.
- Small Claims Court cases, unless NSLA determines that it could end up with loss of the person’s only residence or undue financial hardship.
- Cases involving the Federal Immigration Act, including Refugee Hearings
- Provincial offences
- Summary advice may be available.