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Law Talk: There's a lot more to know about pro bono

Community Legal Services | News | February 11th, 2008



Access to Justice: pro bono law ontario and pro bono students Canada
Pro Bono Law Ontario (PBLO) recognizes that “access to justice is fundamental to a free and democratic society.” Though Ontario does have a publicly funded legal aid program, it cannot keep up with the demand for legal services, nor does it cover all legal service areas. For this reason, PBLO has developed some projects through law firms, legal clinics, or community-based organizations to provide free legal services for low-income and disadvantaged individuals as well as communities and the charitable organizations that serve them.

One of PBLO's main goals is to develop the pro bono capacity at the private bar by providing structured pro bono opportunities for lawyers who want to give back to the community but aren't sure how.

What kind of projects is PBLO currently working on? Currently, PBLO is providing support to students with special needs in education; guidance for charities and nonprofit organizations; help for artists; assistance with wrongful murder conviction cases; and representation at Small Claims Court.

Please see http://www.pblo.org/public/legalhelp.cfm for more information about the free help PBLO can offer you in these areas.

Volunteer Lawyers Service (VLS) is a registered project of PBLO. Over 500 volunteer lawyers have provided legal services to over 500 community agencies through VLS in Ontario. Volunteering lawyers specialize in areas of law that are relevant to non-profit and charitable organizations.

VLS also conducts educational seminars and provides resources on important topics to both charities and non-profit organizations. In addition, VLS lawyers are available for presentations at events, workshops or meetings. To contact VLS, call 416 977-4448 or 866-466-PBLO or email info@volunteerlawyers.org.

Another type of pro bono legal help is provided through Canadian law schools including the University of Western Ontario (http://www.law.uwo.ca/ProBono/index.html) and the University of Windsor (http://athena.uwindsor.ca/pbsc). The program is called Pro Bono Students Canada (PBSC). It brokers relationships between law students and community organizations, government agencies, tribunals, or practicing lawyers who are working on public interest legal cases. Although the students cannot provide legal advice, they can provide policy research and writing for such organizations. Supervision by a lawyer is required for all such legal work. If an organization does not have access to a lawyer, PBSC can usually assist the organization in finding one.

By instilling a pro bono ethic among law students, PBSC hopes to improve access to justice to all by reaching future lawyers at an early stage in their careers. For law students, the PBSC programs provide one of the few avenues for law students to gain practical legal experience in law school.

This column provides legal information only. If you need legal advice please contact a lawyer, community legal clinic or the Lawyer Referral Service at 1-900-565-4LRS (a $6.00 charge will apply). You can contact Community Legal Services at the Faculty of Law, University of Western Ontario at 519-661-3352 to book an appointment to discuss your legal issue. Fanshawe College students may also book an appointment to attend our outreach clinic at the college. Please call us at 519-661-3352 to book an appointment.
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