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Pro Bono Ontario: Free legal help

Region: Ontario Answer # 870

Pro Bono Ontario (PBO) is a registered charity that creates and manages projects that make it easier for low-income Ontarians to get the legal help they need – free of charge – and for lawyers to give back to the community. PBO does not get any funding from the government, and its lawyers are all volunteers.

Legal Advice Hotline  1-866-466-7256

PBO operates Monday to Friday from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm.  They currently help with:

  • Going to court (civil matters only – no family law or criminal law)
  • Employment
  • Housing
  • Consumer issues, such as consumer debt and consumer protection
  • Creating Powers of Attorney
  • Corporate law for charities, non-profits and small businesses

Legal services for charities and non profits

The Corporate/Non-Profit program (formerly called the Volunteer Lawyer Service), is a division of PBO that offers free legal support to eligible charitable and non-profit organizations in Ontario that otherwise could not afford the services of a lawyer.  The program also offers help to entrepreneurs, start-ups and social enterprises.

The PBO Corporate/Non-Profit program matches non-profits, charities, entrepreneurs, start-ups and social enterprises with volunteer lawyers who can help with a range of services. The legal services provided include:

  • help with obtaining charitable status and assistance with incorporating and preparing by-laws;
  • employment and labour matters, such as contract reviews and personnel manuals and termination;
  • commercial contract reviews, such as leases, partnership or sponsorship agreements;
  • board governance, training and support;
  • development of privacy policies and protocol;
  • help with IP issues; and
  • the Online Charity Tool Box which helps those who are planning on starting a non-profit or charity.

Who is eligible?

All non-profit organizations, charities, entrepreneurs, start-ups and social enterprises are eligible to receive free legal advice and services, provided:

  1. The applicant is an organization and not an individual (although an individual may apply on behalf of the organization, provided they are authorized to do so);
  2. The organization’s goals and activities are for the public benefit and not for mutual member benefit (e.g. social clubs, sports clubs); and
  3. The organization is based in Ontario.

Priority will be given to organizations that serve low-income and vulnerable Ontarians.

Application process

To apply for free legal assistance, the organization must submit an online application, which includes general information about the organization as well as information about its mission and programs. Once an organization has received approval it will be matched with a lawyer. The organization only has to pay for the out of pocket costs (disbursements), such as government filing fees, photocopying, and so on.

For more information, log on to probonoontario.org, or call Nicole Kellow at 416-597-0770 ext. 926.


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