Pro Bono Students Canada

DivorceMate Canada Gives Incredible Support to PBSC’s FLP!

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University of Toronto, Faculty of Law website – Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

DivorceMate's Mark Harris, founder, and Michael Perlman,  president

DivorceMate’s Mark Harris, founder, and Michael Perlman, president

Pro Bono Students Canada, the only national pro bono service organization in the world, has received a generous gift of $30,000 from DivorceMate, Canada’s leading provider of family law software, in support of PBSC’s Family Law Project.

The campaign to save and expand the Family Law Project was launched in 2013 when the vital court service for unrepresented litigants became at risk of closure due to years of funding cuts.

Access to the family law system has reached a crisis point in recent years, with up to 80 percent of Ontario family court litigants unable to afford a lawyer. Everyone from the Chief Justice of Canada to the Canadian Bar Association has assailed the situation, and has called for radical changes.

“When I turned to DivorceMate to ask for support for this vital program, they immediately stepped up,” says Phillip M. Epstein, chair of the Family Law Project campaign. “It’s heartening to see industry partners joining with family law professionals to fund a program that trains law students and assists vulnerable Ontarians.”

Thanks to Epstein’s efforts, together with Epstein Cole LLP, the campaign’s Law Firm Champion, the project has now raised almost $480,000 of its $650,000 fundraising goal, more than 70 percent.

As part of the Family Law Project, PBSC recruits and trains students to support low-to-middle-income earners who do not qualify for legal aid. Students assist clients in filling out their court forms and helping them navigate the complex court system. Now operating in eight Ontario Courthouses and several other provinces across Canada, the project is widely considered to be a key resource for people in a time of crisis.

In addition to enhancing the administration of an overburdened family court system, the project has the added benefit of introducing law students to family law, and instilling the pro bono ethic in the next generation of lawyers. Last year, 160 law students across Canada assisted more than 2,000 low-income clients.

Justice Robert Spence, the head judge of the country’s largest family court, was one of the very first lawyer supervisors on the project, in 1998. He recently attended a PBSC training conference, where he told the students how “inspiring” he found it as a lawyer “to work with law students who were passionate and ready to roll up their sleeves to help people in need.” He added: “The FLP has been a regular feature of our courthouse at 47 Sheppard for years, and I can’t tell you how important you are to the system.  Your contribution to the administration of justice is something that cannot measured.”

On top of their generous financial contribution, DivorceMate is also donating software for the PBSC student volunteers to use during their shifts in court.

“DivorceMate is very impressed by the work of Pro Bono Students Canada,” says Michael Pearlman, president. “DivorceMate is always looking for ways to give back to the community, and we are particularly proud to be joining with PBSC and the family bar to help increase access to justice for unrepresented litigants.”

This donation has come at a critical time for the campaign, adds Nikki Gershbain, PBSC’S national director.

“DivorceMate’s leadership has helped us maintain our campaign momentum. We hope this gift will inspire other industry leaders and professionals to partner and help us reach our goal.”

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