How to get legal information and legal advice
If you do not have a lawyer...
If you do not have a lawyer for an appeal, you will have to prepare and file your documents and do the legal research to represent yourself. You will need to learn about the court system, what documents to file, the specific law in your case, and the possible arguments for your case. This website can help.
In civil and family appeals, there are a couple of issues to keep in mind right away:
- There are strict deadlines that you must keep in mind. For most appeals, the deadline for starting an appeal is 30 days from the pronouncement of the order under appeal.
- There is not always an automatic right of appeal in British Columbia. In some cases, you must seek leave to appeal, which means you must apply to the court for permission to initiate your case. In the civil context, you can learn more in the Leave to appeal section of the Appellant Guidebook.
- An often misunderstood principle is that an appeal is not a rehearing of your case. For an appeal to be successful, you must show that the court or decision maker made a factual or legal error that affected the outcome of your case.
For criminal appeals, you may appeal your conviction, sentence or conviction and sentence. The steps you need to take may be found in the Criminal Guidebooks.
Where you can find help...
There are many organizations that can provide you with legal information, legal advice, and referrals to a variety of services in your community.
Legal Services Society: The Legal Services Society (LSS) may be contacted at 604-408-2172 (Greater Vancouver) 1-866-577-2525 (no charge, elsewhere in BC). An applicant may apply over the phone for a lawyer.
Access Pro Bono: Access Pro Bono offers several programs ranging from summary advice to full representation. The Summary Advice Program provides self-represented litigants with a half-hour of free legal advice. The Roster Program provides assistance with Court of Appeal matters ranging from review of documents to full representation. Contact Access Pro Bono by calling 1-877-762-6664 (tool free)
Native Courtworker and Counselling Association of B.C.: The NCCABC is a triage service. They direct Aboriginal and Metis peoples to services available, including drug and alcohol treatment as well as legal aid services. 1-877-811-1190 or 604-985-5355.
If you have been turned down for legal aid
Section 684 of the Criminal Code provides that the court of appeal may order that a lawyer assist or represent an accused person where that person does not have sufficient means to obtain assistance and where that person has been turned down for legal aid.You must have a “letter of authority” from legal aid detailing their refusal to assist with your appeal. You can only file a s. 684 application after you have filed a notice of appeal.
For those living (or incarcerated) in the Victoria Capital Regional District, The Law Centre at the University of Victoria can assist with a s. 684 application.
For those incarcerated in the Lower Mainland, the Law Students’ Legal Advice Program (“LSLAP”) at the University of British Columbia can assist with a s. 684 application.
AC Friends of Court:
AC Friends of Court assists British Columbians, regardless of their means, complete legal forms; and prepare for their virtual court and tribunal appearances. One hour appointments for our virtual workshops are held every Thursday at 530 or 645pm. In-person workshops at 312 Main Street are held on the last Thursday of each month. For appointments to get help completing forms, go here. For appointments to get help preparing for a virtual appearance, go here.
Legal Services Society: LSS may provide representation for serious family problems, child protection matters, and some mental health, and prison law issues. They may be contacted at 604-408-2172 (Greater Vancouver) 1-866-577-2525 (no charge, elsewhere in BC).
Access Pro Bono: Access Pro Bono has operated the appeals referral service since 2019. If you do not have a lawyer when you file a notice of appeal you will receive a referral to a pro-bono lawyer. The lawyer may provide assistance ranging from summary advice to full representation.
Access Pro Bono: Access Pro Bono has operated a civil chambers duty counsel program at the Vancouver Law Courts since 2008. Each Tuesday and Thursday, volunteer lawyers from Vancouver law firms provide pro bono assistance and representation to unrepresented low- and modest-income litigants appearing in civil (not family) chambers in both Supreme and Appeal Courts. These services must be booked in advance by calling 778-357-1300 or emailing email@example.com. Their office is located in the Courthouse Library in downtown Vancouver.
Access Pro Bono also provides a lawyer referral service funded by the Law Foundation of British Columbia. The service allows members of the public to consult with a lawyer for free for up to 30 minutes. 1-800-663-1919 or 604-687-3221. There is also an option to book online for family, tenancy, employment, will, estate, or trust issues.
Courthouse Library: Library staff encourage the Court to send unrepresented litigants to the library on the 3rd floor. They have a triage desk where a staff member will meet with them for up to 20 minutes and help them find the appropriate service or help them with the basics of research and writing. Library staff has indicated this is an underutilized resource for our Court and have explicitly invited more referrals.
UBC Law Students' Legal Advice Program (LSLAP): LSLAP may provide advice, but not representation on civil matters in the Court of Appeal. 604-822-5791. LSLAP is participating in the s. 684 program as well.
Law Centre at the University of Victoria: The Law Centre is a UVic clinical program that will provide assistance in all areas of civil law for those living in the Capital Regional District. 250-385-1221.
Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS): CLAS provides legal assistance to disadvantaged people specializing in the areas of poverty, disability, workers' compensation, employment insurance, mental health, human rights and equality law. 1-888-685-6222 or 604-685-3425.
Rise Women’s Legal Centre: Rise is a community legal centre that offers unbundled legal services to self-identifying women in the area of family law, and can assist with some immigration matters. Rise is a clinical program that arose as a result of a partnership between the Peter A. Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia and West Coast Legal Education and Action Fund. 236-317-9000 (clients) or 604-451-7447 (general).
To learn more about BC Court of Appeal, select one of these links: