Getting help when you need it most


Family duty counsel are lawyers usually located in courts across BC and also by phone during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s one story that illustrates the value of brief legal advice.

Sheila had just separated from her partner because of a history of verbal abuse in the relationship. The police advised her to change the locks to her apartment when he was away. When her partner found out, he insisted that he had to stay with her so he wouldn’t be in violation of a court-ordered curfew for a separate criminal matter.

Sheila came to see duty counsel at the courthouse to get help with preparing an application for an emergency protection order to stop her former partner from contacting her. Family duty counsel are often so busy they can only give advice to people appearing in the court that day. After finishing the day’s cases, however, lawyer Joe Simpson went out of his way to help Sheila.

As a result of his assistance, she was granted the emergency order, and later returned to the courthouse for further advice when the short-term order was about to expire. Joe guided her through the legal process and spoke to the court on the matter, helping to extend the protection order for one year.

Sheila left the family duty counsel a very moving thank-you card expressing her gratitude.

During a stressful time in my life, you made it smooth and less stressful with your support and your gentle kindness. No words can say how grateful I am to have met you and to have you stand beside me in court.

— From Sheila’s thank-you card to lawyer Joe Simpson

For more client stories and how they align with our organizational goals, read our publication Legal Aid BC: Strategies & Stories.

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