This article first appeared in the Provincial Court of BC's eNews
A legal consultation is like a good night’s sleep. You may not know if or when you’ll have one, but there’s no doubt having one will help you face what lies ahead. However, many people worry they can’t afford the cost of consulting a lawyer about a legal problem. There are low-cost legal resources available, but many of us don’t know how to find them – and that’s a situation that could lead to even bigger legal problems.
That’s why the Lawyer Referral Service is available. For everyday situations that need a preliminary consultation, the Lawyer Referral Service can help to answer your first legal questions at a very low cost.
How the Lawyer Referral Service Works
With funding from the Law Foundation of BC, the Canadian Bar Association BC Branch (CBABC) has operated the Lawyer Referral Service (LRS) since 1971. Whether you have a legal problem, or you just need to ask some legal questions, you can call the LRS.
The LRS call centre is staffed by highly-trained and experienced operators who help assess your situation. They narrow down your concerns to determine whether and how a lawyer might help. Once that’s determined, they may refer you to a lawyer practising the area of law that matches your concern.
The Initial Consultation
With this referral, you can book an appointment for up to 30 minutes’ consultation with the lawyer for a cost of $25 + taxes. When you meet, the lawyer will explore your legal concerns and help you decide whether you want to pursue your legal matter.
There is no expectation you will hire the lawyer – that’s your choice. And the lawyer is also not obliged to take your case. However, if you and the lawyer do choose to work together, you’ll carry on and pay regular legal fees, the same as any other client.
Who operates the Lawyer Referral Service?
The lawyer you consult with is one of nearly 2,000 BC lawyers who volunteer their time and legal skills to LRS. LRS lawyers practice different types of law ranging from family, insurance and human rights law, to motor vehicle, wills & estates and criminal law. They provide a diverse range of expertise to match the diversity of legal situations callers to the Lawyer Referral Service present.
Brian Coen, a North Vancouver-based lawyer, is part of LRS and enjoys working with those who need a little extra help with legal problems due to financial constraints.
“The biggest satisfaction is helping people who do not have the resources to help themselves,” says Coen. “I find that many people are truly appreciative of the time given to discuss their difficult situations. These individuals are often extremely stressed and confused – alleviating some of that stress is gratifying,” he said.
Asked what initially prompted him to join LRS, Coen continued, “One of the most frustrating aspects of civil litigation, for me, is access to justice, especially for ‘the little guy’. The cost of litigating has become exorbitant. I joined the Lawyer Referral Service to do my small part in providing people who have legitimate claims with the access to justice they wouldn’t otherwise have,” he stated.
Coen also said “I believe the Lawyer Referral Service serves an important role in our legal system in the way it offers people who have no experience with our justice system a means upon which to locate a lawyer. It also provides those less fortunate with access to legal services they wouldn’t otherwise have.”
How the Lawyer Referral Service Protects Your Privacy
Legal services obtained through LRS are confidential – the lawyers treat your consultation as they would any other client or potential client. This commitment creates a comfortable, open space for questions and answers. To ensure confidentiality, lawyers must abide by a specific set of rules. But if a rule is broken, they can be suspended or removed from the service.
How to Contact the Lawyer Referral Service
LRS is available by phone, Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Please call 604.687.3221 or toll-free in BC at 1.800.663.1919. Or, visit the Lawyer Referral Service online.
Another way to get legal information
If you don’t need a lawyer consultation, but want to know more about the law, Dial-A-Law is available to help increase your knowledge of your legal rights and responsibilities – and it’s free!
Dial-A-Law is like a library, but instead of books, it’s filled with legal information provided by lawyers in multiple languages including English, Punjabi, French and simplified Chinese. There are nearly 130 topics to read or listen to as audio recordings.
Dial-A-Law is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 604.687.4680 or toll-free in BC at 1.800.565.5297. Or, connect to the service at www.dialalaw.org.
When you need legal resources, knowing what’s available and where to access it can help ease your mind and hopefully lead to that good night’s sleep – enabling you to face the situation armed with improved knowledge, clearer expectations and appropriate legal support.
Are You A Lawyer Who’d Like to Join LRS?
The Lawyer Referral Service is always adding new lawyers. If you’d like to consider participating, you’ll find details on how to apply and the LRS application form, here.