People who are facing criminal charges sometimes wonder if it’s better to hire a private lawyer rather than rely on legal aid. Some believe that legal aid lawyers provide less attention to clients and possibly a lower quality of representation.

In reality, legal aid lawyers are among the most specialized and experienced criminal defence counsel in the province. They are battle-hardened by countless trials and court appearances, and they enjoy all the advantages of a large organization such as ongoing training and ready access to the insights of a large network of in-house colleagues.

If there is any chance that you may qualify, you should submit an application to Nova Scotial Legal Aid. This does not compel you to accept legal aid if, despite qualifying, you can somehow arrange payment for private counsel. It just allows you to make a considered decision about how to proceed. As well, legal aid may issue a certificate to retain private counsel, so it certainly makes sense to find out if that may be an option in your case.

So why might somebody choose to pay for private counsel if legal aid is available? One common reason is to secure the representation of a specific lawyer based on his or her experience or reputation or a positive past relationship. Another reason is to ensure that the file and the client receive more personal attention than legal aid can provide. Similarly, private counsel may be required to take steps that could not necessarily be justified within the constraints of the publicly-funded legal aid plan, such as conducting wide-ranging legal research or litigating complex and lengthy pretrial applications that may have limited prospects for success.

Don’t be averse to legal aid on principle. That can be a pointless and costly mistake. Instead, know your options and think about the specific reasons why you might want to retain private counsel. And feel free to give me a call at (902) 593-1188 for a personalized discussion about your own case.