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
- Available on this site free. Please see “Legal Information” in the website menu.
Duty Counsel – Criminal Law
- Assistance from Duty Counsel Lawyers is available to all Nova Scotians facing 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, onsite 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
- Legal telephone advice 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 legal merit 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:
- 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.
- Assisting Nova Scotians to obtain title to their land in the five Communities of East Preston, North Preston, Cherry Brook, Lincolnville, and Sunnyville. Service provided will include: obtaining a Certificate of Title under the Land Titles Clarification Act (LTCA) (which requires migration after issuance of the certificate); migration under the Land Registration Act; court ordered declarations and negotiation between private parties; and applications under the Probate Act/Intestate Succession Act.
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 and title to land for 5 communities noted above).
- Estates and trusts (except in relation to title to land for 5 communities noted above).
- 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.