Pro Bono Project

What was the Three Counties Pro Bono project?
What initiatives took place in the Pro Bono project?
What is in store for the future?
Continuing PBLO initiatives
How can I get more information about Pro Bono Law Ontario (PBLO)?


 

What was the Three Counties Pro Bono Project?

The expression “pro bono,” from the Latin phrase “pro bono publico”, means public good. In legal terms, it means representation of someone free of charge.

 

The Community Advocacy & Legal Centre was approached by Pro Bono Law Ontario in 2004 to initiate a project in our geographic area. We were provided with a start-up grant by PBLO.

 

The objectives of the project were threefold:

  • to provide training and recruit volunteer lawyers to provide legal information and services in education and special education issues which was dubbed the “Child Advocacy Project” 

  • to recruit volunteers to provide information and services to non profit agencies, which was labeled the “VLS Project” 

  • to encourage participation in local, organized pro bono work and recognize the pro bono contributions of local lawyers.

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What initiatives took place in the Pro Bono Project?

 

A local Steering Committee was formed to oversee the project, consisting of members of the legal community in Lennox & Addington and Hastings County. A retired local educator also joined the Steering Committee.

 

Local Law Associations were involved in the Three Counties Pro Bono Project. We requested and received an endorsement for the project from both the Hastings County Law Association and the Lennox & Addington Law Association. The Hastings County Law Association hosted Justice Stephen Goudge to speak about Pro Bono Law Ontario at their 2004 Annual General Meeting.

 

Recruiting and training of volunteer lawyers for the Child Advocacy portion of the project was undertaken. In the fall of 2004 and spring of 2005 training was provided to lawyers on Education Law, Special Education and human rights issues in Education. A separate training session was conducted for service providers in the fall of 2004.

 

The Three Counties Pro Bono Project provide training material to the participants in the legal education sessions, as well as providing resource material to the local law libraries.

 

An extensive survey of private bar members was developed and completed in the summer of 2005. We were not surprised to find that local lawyers are already doing a wide variety of pro bono work in the community. Respondents also expressed interest in participating in future pro bono work.

 

The Steering Committee recommended moving forward with the non-profit portion of the project by use of the existing Volunteer Lawyer Service (VLS), which is a registered project of PBLO. VLS offers a mechanism for local lawyers to register in order to provide legal advice or information to non profit agencies.

 

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What is in store for the future? 

Public Legal Education

 

Many lawyers in our area have expressed an interest in providing information by way of public legal education. Armed with the information collected in the 2005 survey, we have a good base of potential volunteers when our future “Community Law School” launches. We are working on a project that will allow an organized approach to public legal education in our area and are presently seeking funding for a Coordinator to organize events such as brown bag lunches, newspaper columns and radio talk shows. Watch our website for details.

 

In Celebration, In Recognition, In Appreciation

 

The Community Advocacy & Legal Centre hosted an Appreciation Gathering for local lawyers on January 22, 2007, between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. at our office in Belleville. This was one of the ways to thank lawyers for the pro bono work they do in the community.  We hope to make it an annual event.

 

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Continuing PBLO Initiatives

Child Advocacy

 

The focus of our Child Advocacy Project was the provision of legal service and advice to low income families experiencing difficulty with the education sector, particularly in the area of special education. Our project with Pro Bono Law Ontario has ended, thus the extended insurance coverage that was available to lawyers through such a project has ceased. The Community Advocacy & Legal Centre is no longer referring education law issues to our private bar panel. If a lawyer is interested in providing this service, contact the Child Advocacy Project (CAP) of Pro Bono Law Ontario. You may register with the Child Advocacy Project at 1-866-466-7256 or on their website at www.pblo.org. CAP has confirmed that membership in the Advocate’s Society is not required in order to participate in the program.

 

Please note that our clinic, through the course of the Three Counties Pro Bono Project, has developed materials which are available to local lawyers. Contact Gina Cockburn at 613-966-8686 Extension 34 to request this resource.

 

The speciality legal clinic, Justice for Children and Youth produces thorough pamphlets which contain basic, understandable information for parents. The JFCY has also recently posted material to their website at www.jfcy.org.

 

A further resource may be found at www.schooladvocacy.ca.

 

Volunteer Lawyers Service

 

The Volunteer Lawyers Service (VLS) offers legal support to eligible charitable and nonprofit organizations in Ontario. VLS matches community agencies with volunteer lawyers who can help with a range of services such as incorporation, charitable registration, board governance, contracts or trademark registrations.

 

VLS also provides educational seminars and online support materials to help community agencies strengthen their business practices.

 

Visit their site at http://www.volunteerlawyers.org to learn more about what they do and if your organization is eligible for this service.

 

Lawyers may register through this service to provide legal advice/information to non profit organizations.

 

Local lawyers may specify the county in which they are willing to provide service. The benefits of registration through VLS include initial screening of service requests by VLS and the insurance coverage of an endorsed Pro Bono project.

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How can I get more information about Pro Bono Law Ontario?

 

Visit the provincial organization at www.pblo.org. This site also acts as the entry point for Probononet -- an online resource to assist lawyers who want to volunteer and for members of the general public seeking access to pro bono services.

 

The public can go directly to the Law Help Ontario section to find out where you can get pro bono legal help through projects currently registered with Pro Bono Law Ontario.  They also have a number of fact sheets and legal information, including self-representation guidebooks, videos, court forms, and court guides in areas such as litigation and appeals.  You can also ask a question to their live chat line, offered Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.