4.7 Free and Low Cost Legal Services


Paying for professional help can get expensive. Here are a number of options to help you keep your costs down.


1) Family Duty Counsel

Self-represented litigants can get legal advice from Family Duty Counsel. Family Duty Counsel are lawyers who are paid by the Legal Services Society to provide people with low incomes help with their divorce or separation.

Self-Rep's Tip:

As a self-represented litigant, you should take advantage of all the legal advice you qualify for. 

Duty counsel is available at both Provincial Court and Supreme Court. At some locations you can drop-in and at others you have to phone ahead. If you qualify for help from a family duty counsel lawyer, you can get up to three hours of free legal advice.

In order to take advantage of the Family Duty Counsel services, your household income has to be below a certain level. Here are the basic requirements of legal aid eligibility:

Household size
(number of family members)

Net monthly income
(income after deductions)

1 – 4

Below $3,300


Below $3,900


Below $4,520

7 or more

Below $5,110

Even if you do not meet the criteria, you might still be able to get legal advice. Your best option is to call and ask about how they can help you. Call your local legal aid office for more information.

Family Law Duty Counsel can give you verbal legal advice. They can even go to certain types of hearings with you such as the Family Case Conference or Judicial Case Conferences and speak for you on basic matters.

 What are some of the issues family duty counsel can help with?

 Provincial Court

 Supreme Court

  • Parenting arrangements
  • Child support arrangements
  • Spousal Support arrangements
  • Settlement agreements
  • Negotiation
  • Court procedures
  • Protection orders
  • Help you with court documents


  • Parenting arrangements
  • Child support arrangements
  • Spousal support arrangements
  • Some property issues
  • Settlement agreements
  • Negotiation
  • Court procedures
  • Certain chambers matters
  • Help you with court documents

Family Duty Counsel Limits

There are limits to what Family Duty Counsel can do for you. For starters, Family Duty Counsel do not “take your case”. Family Duty Counselors will not represent you at trial. Instead, they are there to help you and guide you through certain parts of the process.

Family Duty Counsel cannot:

  • Give you written legal advice
  • Do your court documents for you
  • Help you with complicated property issues
  • Help you with tax issues
  • Serve documents or accept them for you

Prepare For Your Meeting

Whenever you have a chance to meet with a lawyer to get advice, you should make the most of it. That means you have to be prepared for your meeting. Avoid giving the lawyer your life story. Stick to the important details and ask questions that you do not think you will be able to answer yourself. Be sure to fill out the Meeting A Lawyer Worksheet from last section.


2) Pro Bono Lawyers

Pro bono clinics are popular legal advice options for people who are caught in the middle between having enough money to not qualify for legal aid and not enough money to pay for a lawyer.

Pro bono services are usually provided by volunteer lawyers to help people with limited financial means get the help they need for free or for a greatly reduced charge.

Pro bono lawyers cannot go to court for you or prepare your documents for you. They can help you prepare by giving advice. Access Pro Bono’s paralegal service can help you with filling out forms.

Pro bono services are offered by Access Pro Bono.

Access Pro Bono

Access Pro Bono is a well-known agency that provides pro bono legal clinics in British Columbia. They run clinics all over the province. Access Pro Bono can help you if:

  1. You live in BC
  2. You have a legal problem
  3. You have ruled out government legal aid assistance
  4. Your monthly household income is below $3,265 for a 1-3 person household or $4,470 in a 4 or more person household.

Since you will be meeting with a lawyer, you should read section 4.3 on Lawyers to help you prepare. You want to make your visit with a lawyer count. Remember to ask targeted questions instead of giving too much background and running out of time.

Access Pro Bono also maintains a pro bono lawyer roster. They screen cases and forward them to volunteer lawyers. The lawyers can choose to take the case or not. If a lawyer responds to the case, the lawyer will get to decide how much and what kind of assistance they are willing to provide.

In addition, Access Pro Bono has partnered with the Vancouver Law Courts and Justice Access Centre to provide extra help for you in preparing court documents such as forms. The service is staffed by paralegals under the supervision of lawyers.

To learn more about Access Pro Bono services visit accessprobono.ca.


3) Lawyer Referral Service

The Lawyer Referral Service is one of your low-cost legal advice options. The Lawyer Referral Service allows people to speak to a volunteer lawyer for up to thirty minutes for $25 plus tax. The lawyer can help you determine if you are facing legal issues that you have not considered.

As a self-representing litigant, it is best to use this short meeting with a lawyer to get a good overview of your legal issues and options.

You can have one consultation with a lawyer on a single issue. That means that you can go back to talk to another lawyer about a different issue. It might be a good investment to spend $25-$75 to get a sense of what legal issues you are going to have to overcome in your case. It will help you focus your efforts as you go through the divorce or separation process.

If you are going to speak with a lawyer, make sure that you prepare for your consultation so that you can take advantage of the very short time you have to ask your questions. Be ready to present a short summary of your case, let the lawyer know the reason you are there and what you are asking help with. Write down any specific questions you want to ask the lawyer.

Self-Rep's Tip:

You do not have to hire the lawyer who you talk to. The lawyer does not have to take your case, and if they decide that they want to take your case, it will be at full rates and not $25 an hour. 

Setting Up Your Appointment

Here is how to set up a thirty minute meeting with a lawyer through the referral service:

  1. Call the Lawyer Referral Service on weekdays at 604-687-3221 or 1800-663-1919 between 8:30AM – 4:30PM
  2. Tell the operator that you have a family law issue that you would like to speak to a lawyer about
  3. The operator will give you the name and number of a lawyer that deals with family law in your area

Call the lawyer and set up a consultation.