Legal Services Society of BC (Legal Aid)
The LSS is a government-funded organization that provides legal services for low-income persons. After a brief screening process to determine that you meet the criteria to receive legal aid, your file is referred to a lawyer who takes legal aid files. The lawyer becomes your lawyer, and the LSS pays the bill. If you know that a particular lawyer does legal aid files, you can request that lawyer specifically.
Generally, the LSS will only provide referrals for specific types of legal problems, such as child apprehension, frustrated access, and situations where there are allegations of spousal abuse. If in doubt, contact the LSS and they can tell you about your eligibility for legal aid.
Access Pro BonoAccess Pro Bono is a nonprofit organization that maintains a roster of lawyers who have agreed to donate their time to low-income individuals. Lawyers through Access Pro Bono are not paid for their time, and can either represent you fully, or provide you with more limited help in drafting court documents and providing you with summary advice.
While the services provided are generally not as far-reaching as the LSS, (ie. many of the services are clustered around Victoria, Nanaimo and Vancouver) the range of services offered and the types of law that lawyers can help you with is wider than that provided by the LSS. Access Pro Bono also screens all potential clients for eligibility before providing any services.
Community Legal Assistance Society
“The purpose of the Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS) is to provide legal advice and assistance and to use and develop the law for the benefit of people who are physically, mentally, socially, economically or otherwise disadvantaged or whose human rights need protection.”
Generally, CLAS provides more restricted services than either the LSS or Access Pro Bono, limiting its advice to help disadvantaged groups and providing direct legal services through the supervision of law students or through ‘test case’ litigation – that is, a case that they will use in an attempt to set a precedent in the province.