Province announces more funding for N.S. Legal Aid services

Courts. (Shutterstock image)

NOVA SCOTIA: Nova Scotia’s Attorney General and Justice Minister announced May 16 the province will be increasing funding to Nova Scotia Legal Aid to help ensure vulnerable Nova Scotians have access to the legal advice and supports they need.

Barbara Adams said that access to justice is important to all residents.

“Nova Scotia Legal Aid is an important pillar of our justice system,” said Adams. “It ensures that people who can’t afford legal representation get it, providing representation, advice and information.

“This funding will help ensure that legal aid has the resources to support our most vulnerable who need help with legal matters.”

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Nova Scotia Legal Aid is receiving additional funding of $3.98 million for 2024-25and $5.6 million annually starting in 2025-26.

The additional funding will increase compensation for private lawyers used when staff lawyers are unavailable orhave a conflict, known as certificate lawyers.

This will encourage private lawyers to accept legal aid cases. The maximum number of billable hours will also increase, in recognition of the complexity of some matters.

Nova Scotia Legal Aid provides many free legal services to help adults and youth involved in criminal law, family law and many areas of social justice and civil law – playing an important role in the fair and efficient functioning of the justice system.

Hourly rates will range from $120 to $160 depending on a lawyer’s experience and the complexity of the case. Previously, the range was $70 to $95.

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Quotes:
“Today’s announcement brings the largest single increase to hourly rates for private bar lawyers in Nova Scotia Legal Aid’s 47-year history, and this is very good news for low-income Nova Scotians with legal matters.

“This increase acknowledges the crucial role private certificate lawyers play in safeguarding the legal needs of Nova Scotians and it will support better individual outcomes, as well as decrease the number of self-represented litigants navigating the complexities of the justice system.”
— George Ash, Chair, Nova Scotia Legal Aid Commission

“By increasing the fees paid to private lawyers who take NSLA certificates, more people will get help when they need it most, and fewer people will go into court unrepresented.

“These changes will result in a more equitable and efficient justice system as well as support Nova Scotia Legal Aid’s ongoing efforts to attract private lawyers to represent qualified clients.

“We thank the province for this investment in Nova Scotia Legal Aid so our experienced lawyers and staff can continue to provide high-quality, caring and dedicated legal services to our clients.” 
— Charlene Moore, KC (King’s counsel), CEO, Nova Scotia Legal Aid

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Quick Facts:
– the provincial budget had allotted $29.5 million to Nova Scotia Legal Aid for 2024-25
– Nova Scotia Legal Aid has 104 staff lawyers and 213 lawyers on its certificate list; the number of certificate lawyers is down from an average of 240 over the last 10 years
– in 2022-23, there were more than 17,000 legal aid files, with 25 per cent of those files managed by private lawyers
– legal aid cases have become more complex, requiring more hours to complete
– the hourly rate increases are:
     – from $70 to $120 for lawyers with less than five years of experience
     – from $80 to $140 for lawyers with five years or more of experience
     – from $95 to $160 for homicide cases (lawyers with 10 years or more of experience)
     – from $80 to $160 for cases involving custody or return of a child (lawyers with 10 years or more of experience)