Duty counsel

Filed Under: Criminal Law; Family Law

3 definitions found for this term.
Definitions are presented in the order source books were published (most recent first).


Criminal defence lawyers paid by the government to be in court and to offer free assistance to those without lawyers. Duty counsel conduct a lot of bail hearings and guilty pleas for people. Sometimes, duty counsel will be asked to take on more involved roles, like defending an accused person at trial, but this is rare.

A lawyer paid by the provincial or territorial legal aid plan who is available to consult and assist those with an immediate need for legal assistance, but who generally does not provide legal representation at a trial. Duty counsel may be at youth justice court; in many places, duty counsel is available to assist those individuals who are at the police station being questioned by police. Most duty counsel schemes involve lawyers from private practice, paid on an hourly basis, although in some places, legal aid staff lawyers act as duty counsel.


A lawyer appointed by legal aid to represent individuals at the provincial court level in both criminal and family divisions. In the criminal courts, duty counsel can assist individuals (free of charge) with bail hearings, guilty pleas, set dates, and general legal advice.

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