This is a giant list of 150+ free legal and law-related resources for Canadian start-ups and entrepreneurs. Look below for links to free business law guides, contract templates, student-run business law clinics, as well as online information boards. If you notice a link missing, please contact me here.
Free business law guides
These guides outline general information for businesses in Canada, written by some of the largest Canadian law firms. Some tend to be quite lengthy, but they’re a good primer on issues that may affect your business.
- Must-read: Dentons, “Tech Startup Centre Guide”
- Aird & Berlis, “Doing Business in Canada“
- Bennett Jones:
- Borden Ladner Gervais (BLG):
- Bull Houser, “Guide to Doing Business in Canada“
- Cassels Brock
- Daniel Kosir, “An In-Depth Guide for Independent Contractors in Canada“
- Export Development Canada (EDC), “Commercial Contract Terms“
- EDC, “The ABC’s of International Trade Contracts“
- Fasken Martineau, “Doing Business in Canada“
- Globe and Mail, “Small business resource guide,” a list of organizations and interest groups that support technology businesses.
- Government of Canada:
- Joseph C. Grasmick, “U.S. Immigration Law – Overview for Canadians”
- McCarthy Tetrault, “Doing Business in Canada“
- Norton Rose Fulbright, “Doing Business in Canada“
- Osler, “Doing Business in Canada“
- PCK Patent Agents, Trademark & IP Lawyers:
- Royal Bank of Canada:
- Stikeman Elliot:
- Torys, “Doing Business and Raising Capital in Canada“
- Welch LLP, “New Business Guide”
- Wires Law, “Venture Law for Canadian Entrepreneurs”
- Blakes, “Overview of Environmental Regulatory Regime Related to Alberta Oil Sands Activities“
- Lawson Lundell, “Doing Business in Western Canada”
- BC Small Business Accelerator Guides (112 guides in total)
- Lawson Lundell, “Doing Business in Western Canada”
- Mike Volker, “Starting a Business”
- Government of Manitoba, “Starting a Small Business in Manitoba? Guide to basic legal requirements for licensing, regulations and taxation” (PDF)
- Thomson Dorfman Sweatman,
- Cox & Palmer, “Guide to Doing Business in New Brunswick”
Newfoundland & Labrador
- NWT Business Service Centre, “How to Start a Business in the NWT”
- “A Legal Guide for Writers” (2013 PDF) by Artists’ Legal Information Society.
- About Money, “Business Registration in Nova Scotia”
- Government of Canada, “Connections: an immigrant’s guide to starting a business in Nova Scotia”
- “Protecting Wilderness: A Summary of Nova Scotia’s Wilderness Areas Protection Act” (PDF)
- Nunavut Business Guide, “Seven Steps to Help You Start Your Business”
- Canada Business Ontario, “Business Start-up Guide“
- Employment Law Manual: “a brief overview of employment law and the laws of wrongful dismissal”
- Law Help Ontario: Guides on starting, defending, and ending claims in the Ontario Superior Court
- Represent Yourself in Ontario Small Claims Court: “information and tips for people who are representing themselves in small claims court.”
Prince Edward Island (PEI)
- Government of PEI:
- Innovation PEI:
- Blakes, “Doing Business in Quebec“
- Government of Yukon, “Business Resources”
Free contract templates
Few lawyers draft contracts from scratch; contract templates can provide a helpful framework to build off of. However, you should not use these templates without speaking to a lawyer. Templates may not cover your business’s specific situation. Use them with discretion.
- Law Help Ontario, “The Charity Start-up Toolbox”
Business law clinics for start-ups
If you’re a student or starting a new business with minimal revenue, you may qualify for free legal advice at a student clinic. These are some business-focused legal aid clinics started by law faculties across Canada.
- Connect Legal: “advice for immigrant entrepreneurs”
- Student Legal Services of Edmonton: information, referrals and civil services for qualified individuals
- Artists’ Legal Information Society: “not-for-profit organization which provides free legal information to artists in Atlantic Canada.”
- Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS) “provides services to help immigrants settle in Nova Scotia.
- IP Osgoode Innovation Clinic (Toronto, ON) is a “needs-based innovation-to-market legal clinic operated in collaboration with Innovation York and Torys LLP”
- Osgoode Venture Clinic: (Toronto, ON) “provides legal services to early stage entrepreneurial ventures in the financing and equity structuring stages of growth”
- Queen’s Business Law Clinic (Kingston, ON): “helping entrepreneurs, small businesses and not-for-profit organizations “
- Ryerson Law Research Centre’s Legal Clinic (Toronto, ON): provides “advice and information to current Ryerson students (full-time, part-time and CE) and entrepreneurs currently hosted by the DMZ.”
- University of Windsor’s Law Technology & Entrepreneurship Clinic (LTEC)
- VentureLAB (York Region, ON): “occasional advice on a range of specialized topics”
- Western Business Law Clinic (London, ON): provides “small start-up businesses with pro bono legal counsel”
- La Clinique Juridique UQAM
- Legal Information Clinic McGill University
- Le bureau d’information juridique Université Laval
Online legal Q&A, FAQ and information
Sometimes, you just need help understanding a single regulation or step in a proceeding. It may not seem like enough to talk to a lawyer about (although you still should if you can), so you can look for the answer online. What follows are a few online Q&A and FAQ boards that you may find helpful.
- East Coast Environmental Law: “ECELAW responds to the environmental law issues facing Atlantic Canadians”
- Legal Line: “free legal answers”
- Legal Advice Scene: “free legal advice”
- Tax Information for Businesses from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)
- Courtroom etiquette videos for unrepresented claimants
- Law Central Alberta “linking Albertans to legal help”
- Law FAQ’s, “a website of the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta”
- Access Pro Bono: online legal services
- ClickLaw: “information, education and help for British Columbians”
- Community Legal Education Association: “general legal information and advice over the phone in response to callers’ inquiries”
- Legal Help Centre: “referrals, legal help and public legal education and information”
- Labour Standards: information on employment rules, employee recruitment, hiring foreign workers, and labour standards complaints.
- Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia (LISNS)’s Question & Answer
- Educaloi.qc.ca: “Your starting point for legal information”
- PLEA, “Legal information for everyone”
Other free legal resources (not business-focused)
When it comes to legal issues beyond your business (like law suits, immigration, criminal, and landlord/tenant matters), check out the following low-cost resources across Canada.
- Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII): free cases and statutes online.
- CourtPrep.ca: helping youth prepare for criminal court.
- PovNet: “building an anti-poverty community.”
- Tax information for individuals and families from the CRA
- Family Law in British Columbia: free resources, self-help guides and more.
- JP Boyd on Family Law: WikiBook on family law in British Columbia.
- Justice BC: criminal justice, family justice and justice reform.
- People’s Law School: public law-related education and information for people in BC.
- Legal Aid Manitoba: provides help to people who are financially eligible.
- Family Law New Brunswick “online resources for the public”
- Fredericton Legal Advice Clinic
- New Brunswick Legal Aid Services Commission (NBLASC)
Newfoundland & Labrador
- Family Justice Services (FJS): “deal with family law issues, in a timely and fair manner, outside the court setting”
- Newfoundland and Labrador Legal Aid Commission:
- Legal Aid (Yellowknife, NWT): “confidential legal services, advice, and representation by a lawyer for residents of the Northwest Territories who would be unable to afford these services.”
- Access Legal Help Nova Scotia
- Dalhousie Legal Aid Service (Halifax, NS): provides “legal aid services for persons who would not otherwise be able to obtain legal advice for assistance.”
- Legal Aid Nova Scotia: “delivers legal aid via a network of 16 community-based law offices as well as 3 sub-offices.”
- Mi’kmaq Legal Support Network: “justice support system for Aboriginal people who are involved in the criminal justice system in Nova Scotia.”
- Newcomers to Canada: free information about “criminal law, domestic violence law, family law, general law, human rights & immigration status”
- reachAbility: Lawyer referral service for persons with disabilities.
- Legal Services Board of Nunavut “responsible for providing legal services to financially eligible Nunavummiut in the areas of criminal, family and civil law.”
- Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto: programs for Aboriginal people in Toronto.
- Advocacy Centre for the Elderly (ACE)
- Barbara Schlifer Commemorative Clinic: dedicated to helping women get free from violence.
- Do you know a woman who is being abused? A Legal Rights Handbook (2013) by Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO)
- Elder Abuse: The Hidden Crime (2013) by Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO)
- Legal Tree, “Free legal advice organizations in Ontario”
- Legal Aid Ontario “gives low-income people access to a range of services tailored to meet their needs.”
- Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services (NALSC) provides services to First Nations members in the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) territory.
Prince Edward Island
- Community Legal Information Association: Prince Edward Island
- Legal Aid (Charlottetown or Summerside PI): “representation in family and criminal law to clients who, for financial reasons, would be unable to obtain essential services from the private sector.”
- Pro Bono Quebec: public interest cases, partnerships, duty counsel and information.