Why should I retain my own lawyer?

In courts across Ontario, Duty Counsel help unrepresented accused everyday. Duty Counsel are lawyers. Some work exclusively for Legal Aid, while others are private lawyers working on a contractual basis with Legal Aid Ontario.

If Duty Counsel represent people who do not have a lawyer, why should I retain my own lawyer?

First, not everyone is financially eligible for duty counsel services. Generally, duty counsel does not assist with pretrials, preliminary hearings, trials or superior court matters.

Second, Duty Counsel meet with a large number of accused on a regular basis. You may have to wait long periods of time before you speak with a Duty Counsel on your day in court, and you may not get the chance to tell them everything about your case. In addition, Duty Counsel does not keep extensive files, and you will have to re-explain your situation may times, starting over each time you get to court. Finally, Duty Counsel typically does not have the chance to review all the disclosure with you: they review the 1-2 page charge summary and give you an opinion based on that information, not on the entirety of the Crown’s file.

Hiring a private counsel is different: you hire a lawyer based on her experience and expertise. You often choose a lawyer based on her personality and the trust you establish while consulting with her, and reviewing her profile. Private counsel gets to know you and your personal situation. Your lawyer will review your complete file. Your counsel can review the file and provide you with advise on a trial, pretrial, preliminary hearing or plea of guilty.

Often, duty counsel will tell clients that complicated matters should be dealt with by private counsel, who can provide sufficient time, research and continuity for the most advantageous results.