Legal Roles

Lawyers and notaries in the Department of Justice work in four broad areas: policy development, legislative drafting, advisory and legal services, and litigation.

For specific salary rates for Counsel Positions, please view the rates of pay for public service employees.

In addition to in-house counsel, the Department of Justice also relies on paralegals and private sector law practitioners.

Policy Development

The primary role of policy sections is to support the government in developing and implementing its policy objectives. Each department has a policy section, whose mandate is to examine the public’s needs and determine if those needs call for the development of a new policy, law or program. This may affect a program or policy that the department is responsible for, amending or replacing current policy or the creation of a new law.

Essentially, policy developers consult, negotiate, and manage relationships with policy and program partners in the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, non-governmental organizations and stakeholders, and international organizations. They conduct research and analysis on the changes called for by the various stakeholders and interest groups, and they assess the potential impacts of such changes to ensure that Canada develops, implements and maintains sound, effective and sustainable policies, laws (including legislative and regulatory amendments) and programs. Policy developers are responsible for identifying new and emerging issues developing expertise to address them, and often for providing litigation support based on their specialized expertise.

At the Department of Justice Headquarters, approximately 200 lawyers work on policy development. They are supported by a team of professionals from a range of disciplines, including criminologists, sociologists, economists, psychologists, and historians. Core areas of policy work at the Department of Justice include criminal justice, youth justice, international justice, family justice, Aboriginal justice, access to justice (including legal aid), public law, victims, bijuralism and official languages.

Legislative Drafting

The work of the Legislative Services Branch involves drafting federal government bills, drafting or reviewing federal regulations, harmonizing federal legislation with the civil law of Quebec, and publishing federal legislation and related tables.

Legislative counsel in the Branch draft all government bills and most regulations, whatever the sponsoring department or agency. They also provide legal and legislative policy advice to the departmental or agency officials in the course of the development of legislative proposals.

As part of their work, legislative counsel review government bills and regulations for consistency with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Bill of Rights. Legislative counsel also review draft regulations under the Statutory Instruments Act to determine whether they are authorized by their enabling statute and ensure they meet drafting standards.

Because Canada has two official languages and two legal systems for private law matters, its legislation must be sound bilingually and bijurally, and the work of the Branch helps to attain these objectives.

Legislative counsel are supported in their work by revisors, jurilinguists, legal counsel with particular expertise relating to legislation or bijuralism, and various administrative staff.

The Legislative Services Branch is headed by the Chief Legislative Counsel, and consists of about 200 staff, comprising approximately: 110 legislative counsel, who are directly involved in drafting legislative texts; 30 other legal counsel working in advisory, bijural revision or training roles; and the rest work as revisors, jurilinguists, in legislative publishing, and in management or administrative roles.

Advisory and Legal Services

The legal advisors mainly work in what are called departmental legal services units (DLSUs). The DLSUs are composed of Department of Justice employees who provide legal services to other government departments, somewhat like “in-house counsel” in large companies. More than 800 employees work in various DLSUs in the National Capital Region.

There are also a number of specialized advisory sections housed at Justice Headquarters, which provide legal opinions and advice in their respective areas of expertise, notably:

The regional offices primarily handle litigation, but they generally include a small number of legal advisors as well. Legal advisors may be asked to provide opinions on a wide range of areas of the law, depending on the nature of the government department in which they work and the questions put to them regarding: constitutional law and Charter-related issues, administrative law, international law, criminal law, Aboriginal law, access to information and privacy law, contract law, immigration law, tax law, etc.


There are two broad areas of litigation in the Department. The first is tax law, and the second civil litigation, which covers anything that is not tax law or criminal law (e.g. immigration, Aboriginal law, administrative law).

The various sections of the Tax Law Portfolio are located in the National Capital Region and major regional offices. Tax litigators are responsible for all civil appeals concerning tax and customs legislation as well as certain appeals under the Canada Pension Plan, the Employment Insurance Act, and the Petroleum and Gas Revenue Tax Act. They are responsible for conducting litigation on behalf of the Canada Customs Revenue Agency.

The civil litigators are responsible for civil litigation involving the Government of Canada in the common law provinces and the territories. The Civil Litigation Branch is responsible for coordinating the conduct of litigation and, where necessary, legal, policy and client perspectives and ensuring that disagreements are resolved; ensuring consistency in the positions taken in litigation and that the quality of representation meets the highest professional standards; assisting in the refining of legal issues and positions, whether in the regions or in the National Capital Region; and providing guidance and direction in major, high-profile litigation.