In Ontario, Canada a duty counsel is a lawyer paid by the government, who provides limited legal services in criminal, family law and child protection matters to people who arrive at court without representation, mainly in the Ontario Court of Justice.
This lawyer is often the first legal advice given to a detained respondent. The duty counsel is the arrested person's representative to the court, unless the accused has secured other legal advice. Persons arrested and informed of their rights will have to be informed of their right to speak with a duty counsel before answering questions. The duty counsel may be in the court docket, responding to the appearance of the detained person serially, or may be available over the phone after a person is arrested.
Legal Aid Ontario employs both staff, and per diem lawyers (private bar members who work part-time) as duty counsel.
Duty counsel is also available in family law and child protection cases. Duty counsel will advise clients and sometimes speak for them in court, but will not take on cases in the long-term. They can also assist with paperwork and, depending on the court, attend case conferences with clients.