Before Taking Your Case to the Next Step, Seek Advice from a Law Firm
In January, a new legal information centre opened up in Ottawa after receiving $1.5 million in funding from the federal government. The centre, which provides local residents with free bilingual legal information, offers information and referral services on everything from family law to immigration law and everything in between.
But what the non-profit group who runs it, L'Association des juristes d'expression française de l'Ontario, wants to remain clear is that they provide information and not free lawyer advice or representation. Executive director Andrée-Anne Martel has said, "We don't represent in court, we won't evaluate a case's chances of success."
While seeking information and referral services can be a starting point for those unfamiliar to the system or new to the country, if you are seriously considering pursuing a case your next step should be to request free lawyer advice from a one of many of the city's law firms.
Almost any of these law firms will offer potential clients a free half hour consultation to discuss their case and legal needs. Often performed in person or over the phone, these free lawyer advice consultations should come with no charge or obligation. While the consulting lawyer will discuss your case and explain your options, they are not permitted to prepare any documents or perform any legal work during this time, though you may ask for cost estimates for these services.
Anything beyond the half hour consultation is chargeable; however, if you are pursuing a personal injury case and don't have the means to pay the upfront costs associated with a lawyer, you may look into a contingency agreement. Though firms are clear that a contingency agreement does not mean it is free, it does mean you don't pay your until you are paid yourself. Not only does this help make legal advice affordable, it also gives your lawyer incentive to work very hard for you and your case. Discussing a contingency agreement is something you should bring up during your free consultation.
While there are a number of resources out there for free legal information, it's important not to confuse information with advice. Only when a lawyer has discussed the specific details of your case is he/she qualified to give you any actual legal advice. Should you decide to seek out free lawyer advice, be wary of sources that claim to offer free services over the Internet. For the most reliable information and advice you should always consult reputable law firm.