The Free Legal Clinic needs you!

Are you a lawyer or law student looking to give back to the community and help improve access to justice? Volunteers are needed for the upcoming fall/winter term. The Clinic is open the following dates:

October 20 & 27
November 3, 10 & 24
December 1 & 8

To volunteer, contact Meaghan Gillis, Office Coordinator, Executive Office of the Nova Scotia Judiciary, at 902-424-3690 or by email at Meaghan.Gillis@courts.ns.ca.

   
 

Cases That Qualify:
Supreme Court:
Civil Law

Court of Appeal:
Civil Law
Family Law (except Child Protection)

Cases That Do Not Qualify:
Supreme Court:

Criminal Law
Family Law

Court of Appeal:
Criminal Law
Child Protection Matters

Where the Clinic is Located

The Free Legal Clinic is in the Halifax Law Courts building on the city's waterfront - across from the foot of Duke Street. The Clinic area and the courthouse administration office are at the north end of the public lobby on the second floor. Follow the signs or ask at the reception desk (south end).

Contact the Clinic about Supreme Court matters, call 902 424-3690
Contact the Clinic about Court of Appeal matters, call 902 424-6937

 

Kinds of Legal Issues It Deals With

The Clinic provides information and advice on civil law matters before the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeal. It does not deal with matters of criminal law in either Court. Similar services (Duty Counsel) are available in most courthouses.

Family Law matters (except child protection appeals) going before the Court of Appeal also qualify but not Family Law matters in Supreme Court Family Division (similar help is already provided by Nova Scotia Legal Aid in the Supreme Court Family Division).

If you feel your situation may qualify you to get help
from the Free Legal Clinic, you should make an appointment
as early in the court process as possible.

What The Clinic's Lawyer Can And Cannot Do For You

Lawyers at the Free Legal Clinic CAN:
~
Provide you with general information on the Rules of Civil Procedure and Courtroom Etiquette
~
Coach you on how to complete court forms
~
Coach you to be able to identify legal issues
~
Coach you to identify strengths and weaknesses in your case
~
Provide coaching and advice based on the information you provide
   
Lawyers at Free Legal Clinic SOMETIMES CAN:
~
Help you draft court forms or other documents
 
Lawyers at the Free Legal Clinic CANNOT:
~
Replicate the quantity or quality of assistance you receive from a lawyer you retain privately
~
Commission or notarize documents for you
~
Assist you with legal problems that are unrelated to services the Free legal Clinic provides
~
Serve or accept service of court documents for you
~
Predict decisions judges will make
~
Take responsibility for the information in any court forms or documents you prepare

 

The Free Legal Clinic is not “needs-based”.
Your income has nothing to do with whether
or not you qualify for its services.

How To Participate

Appointments can be arranged in person at the administration office of the Halifax Law Courts on Upper Water Street.
Ask for the Prothonotary of the Supreme Court or the Registrar of the Court of Appeal.
You should print and fill out the two forms (provided through the links at the right) in advance.
   
 

Form used to sign up for an appointment
CLINIC INFORMATION FORM >>

Form setting out Lawyer/Client relationship
CLINIC LAWYER/CLIENT FORM >>

Arrangements can also be made by phone:
  for Supreme Court matters, call 902 424-3690
  for Court of Appeal matters, call 902 424-6937
Judges, lawyers and others in the Province’s justice system, as well as service providers in certain
community service organizations, are aware of this free legal service and may refer you to the    
Clinic when you are still only considering going to court, early in the court process, or at any point during your time in court.

 

When The Clinic Is Open

Two volunteer practicing lawyers and two law students are available in the Clinic every Thursday morning (except on holidays). You can book a one-hour session for between 9:00 am and 1:00 pm.

This is not a "walk-in" clinic. Applications must be filled out, and appointments must be arranged, in advance. Priority will be given to those whose scheduled court appearances are imminent.

 

"Going to Court: Self-Represented Parties in Family Law Matters"  - A Workbook

If you are planning to take advantage of the services offered by the Free Legal Clinic, this workbook may help you prepare for your appointment. It is intended to help people prepare and present their cases in court. But it may also be useful in preparing for your visit to the Clinic.
"GOING TO COURT" WORKBOOK >>

It contains information about:
~ getting legal advice
~ proving your case
~ what the court hearing process is like
~ what happens at the end of the court hearing

It also contains WORKSHEETS AND CHECKLISTS >>

The workbook was developed as a collaborative effort between the Nova Scotia Judiciary, the Nova Scotia Department of Justice Court Services Division, and Nova Scotia Legal Aid. It is found on the NOVA SCOTIA FAMILY LAW WEBSITE >>

 

About The Free Legal Clinic Project

Some 12 million Canadians experience at least one legal problem in any given three year period according to a 2013 report from Canada's Action Committee on Access To Justice In Civil and Family Matters. The report, titled “Access to Civil and Family Justice - A roadmap for change”, says a significant number of these people are overwhelmed when they bring their legal problem to court themselves - without the services of a lawyer.

Many other people don’t make it to court, says the report. They give up early. Once they discover how complex, and expensive, and slow it can be, they decide to put aside their legal troubles and simply get on with their lives. And still others, especially the poor and vulnerable, never even consider going to court as a way of resolving their legal problems.

The Committee report calls it a "… serious access to justice problem in Canada".

As well, in a survey conducted for its November 2013 report, “Equal Justice - Balancing the Scales”, the Canadian Bar Association found that “People … consistently described the justice system as not to be trusted, only for people with money, arbitrary, difficult to navigate, and inaccessible to ordinary people.”

It was in discussions about these two reports, and their “call to action”, that the Free Legal Clinic idea had its beginnings.

The clinic idea was given further impetus when the Nova Scotia Access To Justice Co-ordinating Committee was formed. Co-chaired by the Chief Justice of Nova Scotia and the Province's Minister of Justice, it is a collaborative effort involving the Judiciary, the Provincial Government, the Nova Scotia Bar, Nova Scotia Legal Aid, Dalhousie University's Schulich School of Law, and the general public. Its mission is to create an inventory of all of the various access to justice initiatives currently underway, to look for other justice system problems that may not be on anyone’s radar, and to encourage and help facilitate, as much as possible, both the current initiatives as well as any new ones.

The Free Legal Clinic at the Halifax Law Courts fits neatly into the Co-ordinating Committee’s mission.

With the help of eight volunteer lawyers and eight volunteer law students, a pilot version of the Clinic was run at the Halifax Law Courts in early 2015 - five sessions, one a week. The lessons the pilot clinic provided are now being applied in the new Clinic. For example, some of the people who came to the pilot clinic needed more basic information and guidance than had been expected. So now, there are plans to, periodically, conduct workshops which people could attend before coming to the Clinic. Depending on the demand for these services and the availability of resources, the Free Legal Clinic at the Halifax Law Courts might be expanded to a second morning a week.

Together, the Clinic sessions and the workshops are expected to involve some 50 lawyers from Halifax area law firms as well as students from the Schulich School of Law. Their volunteer time and effort will allow for 200 sessions, two a day, twice a week, for 50 weeks a year.

Longer term, depending on the availability of resources, it is hoped that the Free Legal Clinic concept can be brought to the Province’s other courthouses.

 

What The Clinic Can Do For Everyone Involved

  ~ for self-represented litigants, better, more efficient access to justice
  ~ for students, the hands-on experience of working with a practicing lawyer
  ~ for lawyers, an opportunity to provide a valuable public service
  ~ for opposing counsel, fewer complications in court when they face better prepared, more knowledgeable self-represented litigants
  ~ for Courts, a potential reduction in the number of frivolous actions and a more efficient process for those cases that do proceed

 

The Nova Scotia Access To Justice Co-ordinating Committee wishes to thank the volunteer lawyers and their Halifax area law firms for their enthusiasm and support.
Blois, Nickerson & Bryson
Burchells
Boyne Clarke
Stewart McKelvey
Wickwire Holm
The Committee notes that the Province’s legal professionals already devote a significant amount of their work hours to providing free legal services to disadvantaged Nova Scotians. Without this additional effort, the Free Legal Clinic would not exist.
The Co-ordinating Committee also appreciates the contributions of the law students at Dalhousie University’s Schulich School of Law through “Pro Bono Students Canada”.