The Free Legal Clinic needs you!

Are you a lawyer or university student in the Sydney area looking to give back to the community and help improve access to justice? Volunteers are needed for the Free Legal Clinic in Sydney!

To volunteer, contact Nancy Orkish, Court Administrator at the Sydney courthouse, at 902-563-3381 or by email at


Cases That Qualify:
Supreme Court:
Civil Law

Court of Appeal:
Civil Law

Cases That Do Not Qualify:
Supreme Court:

Criminal Law
Family Law

Court of Appeal:
Criminal Law
Family Law
Child Protection Matters


Where is the Clinic located?

The Free Legal Clinic is on the main floor of the courthouse at 136 Charlotte Street in Sydney. Follow the signs or ask at the reception desk to the right of the main doors.

To make an appointment at the clinic, call 902-563-3550.

What kinds of legal issues does the clinic handle?

The Clinic provides information and advice on civil law matters before the Nova Scotia Supreme Court or the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal. It does not deal with matters of criminal law or family law in either Court. Duty Counsel through Nova Scotia Legal Aid is available in most courthouses for criminal and family matters.

If you feel your situation may qualify you to get help
from the Free Legal Clinic, you should make an appointment
as early in the court process as possible.

What can the volunteer lawyer at the clinic do for me?

Lawyers at the Free Legal Clinic CAN:
Provide you with general information on the Rules of Civil Procedure and Courtroom Etiquette
Coach you on how to complete court forms
Coach you to be able to identify legal issues
Coach you to identify strengths and weaknesses in your case
Provide coaching and advice based on the information you provide
Lawyers at Free Legal Clinic SOMETIMES CAN:
Help you draft court forms or other documents
Lawyers at the Free Legal Clinic CANNOT:
Commission or notarize documents for you
Assist you with legal problems that are unrelated to services the Free legal Clinic provides
Serve or accept service of court documents for you
Predict decisions judges will make
Take responsibility for the information in any court forms or documents you prepare

How can I access services at the clinic?


Appointments can be arranged in person at the Court Administration office at the Sydney courthouse. Arrangements can also be made by phone by calling 902-563-3550.

Judges, lawyers and others in the Province’s justice system, as well as service providers in certain community service organizations are aware of this free legal service and may refer you to the Clinic when you are considering going to court, or at any point during the formal court process.

The Free Legal Clinic is not “needs-based”. Your income has nothing to do with whether or not you qualify for its services.


Form used to sign up for an appointment

Form setting out Lawyer/Client relationship


When is the Clinic open?

The Free Legal Clinic will offer appointments at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. most Fridays. Based on the initial response, the clinic will consider offering additional appointment times in the future.

This is not a "walk-in" clinic. Applications must be filled out and appointments must be arranged, in advance. Priority will be given to those whose scheduled court appearances are imminent.

"Going to Court: Self-Represented Parties in Family Law Matters"  - A Workbook

If you are planning to take advantage of the services offered by the Free Legal Clinic, this workbook may help you prepare for your appointment. It is intended to help people prepare and present their cases in court. But it may also be useful in preparing for your visit to the Clinic.

It contains information about:
~ getting legal advice
~ proving your case
~ what the court hearing process is like
~ what happens at the end of the court hearing


The workbook was developed as a collaborative effort between the Nova Scotia Judiciary, the Nova Scotia Department of Justice Court Services Division, and Nova Scotia Legal Aid. It is found on the NOVA SCOTIA FAMILY LAW WEBSITE >>


About The Free Legal Clinic Project

Some 12 million Canadians experience at least one legal problem in any given three-year period, according to a 2013 report from Canada's Action Committee on Access To Justice In Civil and Family Matters. The report, A ROADMAP FOR CHANGE >> says a significant number of these people are overwhelmed when they bring their legal problem to court themselves, without the services of a lawyer.

Many other people don’t make it to court, says the report. They give up early. Once they discover how complex, expensive, and slow it can be, they decide to put aside their legal troubles and simply get on with their lives. And still others, especially the poor and vulnerable, never even consider going to court as a way of resolving their legal problems.

The Committee report calls it a "serious access to justice problem".

As well, in a survey conducted for its November 2013 report, “Equal Justice - Balancing the Scales”, the Canadian Bar Association found that “People … consistently described the justice system as not to be trusted, only for people with money, arbitrary, difficult to navigate, and inaccessible to ordinary people.”

It was in discussions about these two reports, and their “call to action”, that the Free Legal Clinic idea had its beginnings in the Halifax area. The clinic in Sydney is modeled after the clinic in Halifax, which began as a five-week pilot project in early 2015.

The clinic idea was given further impetus when the Nova Scotia Access To Justice Coordinating Committee was formed. Co-chaired by the Chief Justice of Nova Scotia and the Province's Minister of Justice, it is a collaborative effort involving the Judiciary, the Provincial Government, the Nova Scotia Bar, Nova Scotia Legal Aid, Dalhousie University's Schulich School of Law, and the general public. Its mission is to create an inventory of all of the various access to justice initiatives currently underway, to look for other justice system problems that may not be on anyone’s radar, and to encourage and help facilitate, as much as possible, both the current initiatives as well as any new ones.

What The Clinic Can Do For Everyone Involved

  ~ for self-represented litigants, better, more efficient access to justice
  ~ for students, the hands-on experience of working with a practicing lawyer
  ~ for lawyers, an opportunity to provide a valuable public service
  ~ for opposing counsel, fewer complications in court when they face better prepared, more knowledgeable self-represented litigants
  ~ for Courts, a potential reduction in the number of frivolous actions and a more efficient process for those cases that do proceed