Think about the type of lawyer you want to work with. For example, do they:
- have experience dealing with cases like yours
- listen to you
- make you feel comfortable and not rushed
- explain things in a way you can understand
- answer your questions
- give advice based on your situation
- help you find an interpreter, if you need one
- answer your calls within a few days
- tell you clearly about their fees
- accept a Legal Aid Certificate, if you have one
- work with a disability you may have
- speak a language you understand
Think about whether you want to hire a lawyer who offers unbundled services. This means you can hire them to help with a certain part of your legal problem only. For example, to help you prepare your court documents.
This option is useful if you can’t afford to hire a lawyer to help with the whole legal problem. Or for example, if you hired a lawyer to help with your problem, but now don’t have enough money left to keep paying them. Unbundled services can also be called limited scope services, unbundled legal services, or legal coaching.
A lawyer that offers unbundled services usually divides all the things they would usually do for a client into smaller, separate steps or items. You can hire them to only do the things that you decide you need the most help with.
Unbundled services can be:
- Legal advice: meeting with a lawyer to get advice on what your legal options are
- Preparing documents: a lawyer prepares your documents, for example, a court application or a separation agreement
- Appearances: a lawyer represents you in legal situations, for example, at a court hearing, or at a case conference
- Coaching: a lawyer guides you through the court process, or explains how to submit evidence
Lawyers who offer unbundled services usually charge a flat fee. You may have to pay this fee before they help you. Usually you don’t have to pay any other deposit or retainer.
Some lawyers have websites that say if they offer "unbundled" or "limited scope" services. Others do not, but if you ask them, they may be willing to offer it to you. The National Self-Represented Litigants Project website also has a directory of lawyers that offer unbundled services.
Here are some ways to find a lawyer:
Law Society of Upper Canada
The Law Society of Upper Canada has a Directory of all lawyers and paralegals who are licensed to practice law in Ontario. The Law Society also has a Directory of Certified Specialists who focus on family law.
Law Society Referral Service
The Law Society of Upper Canada also has a Law Society Referral Service. This online service gives you the name of a lawyer in your area who can give you a free consultation for up to 30 minutes. You can ask for a lawyer who speaks your language, or a lawyer who accepts Legal Aid certificates.
You can also call them on a crisis line at 1-855-947-5255 or 416-947-5255 in Toronto, if you're unable to use the online service. For example, if you're in a shelter or in a remote community without access to the internet. The line is available from Monday to Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
You don't have to hire this person as your lawyer. But, you can't ask for a second referral for the same legal problem.
Family and friends
If you choose a lawyer that a friend or family member used, remember that everyone's case is different.