Pro Bono Students Canada

Chapter Projects

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Each year, PBSC runs approximately 500 projects through chapters at all Canadian law schools. The following highlights provide just a sampling of the huge variety of services our volunteers are providing in communities across the country. For more information on our various projects, please visit the websites of our local chapters.

Gay and Lesbian Community Centre Legal Clinic Project – PBSC Université du Québec à Montréal Project

Every Wednesday night, PBSC students, working under the supervision of lawyers from McCarthy Tétrault, provide information and assistance to clients of the clinic, as well as legal information over email.

Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal – PBSC McGill Project

PBSC students – after receiving extensive cultural training – work directly with clients to assist them with their legal needs, run legal workshops on Family Law for Aboriginal women, and create legal information pamphlets to inform clients about community resources and their rights.

Pivot Legal Society Policing Affidavit Project – PBSC University of British Columbia 

Pivot Legal Society is a non-profit legal advocacy organization located in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Pivot’s mandate is to take a strategic approach to social change, using the law to address the root causes that undermine the quality of life of those most on the margins. PBSC students assist in the interviewing of clients and preparation of affidavits regarding alleged abuses by members of local police forces. Clients attend the Pivot office and provide details of their complaint, and the student, along with the supervising lawyer, assist the clients in drafting a statement or affidavit which can then be used later in a formal complaint, litigation, or policy reform. The student will also assist the supervising lawyer with gathering further information related to the cases.

Immigration Outreach Project – PBSC University of Calgary

Daily life in a new country is difficult enough without also having to navigate an unwieldy, confusing immigration system. Most newcomers to Canada do not have the resources to obtain legal representation or advice, and are left on their own to pursue complex claims. PBSC students from the University of Calgary are working to reduce this burden on new immigrants to Canada through the Immigration Outreach Project, which places student volunteers at the Mennonite Central Committee’s Centre For Newcomers. Students work with the organization to identify immigration-related presentation topics that would benefit newcomers to Canada. Then, with the help of experienced group leaders and legal professionals, students research the subject and present their findings to the Centre’s community of newcomers in plain-language workshops. One recent student presentation discussed the rights and responsibilities of new Canadians, and how to sponsor family members to come to Canada. Over sixty participants attended the students’ three-hour workshop. “Working so closely with a non-profit agency in the community, and having the ability to network with the public on behalf of the University of Calgary was a fun and unique way to finish my first year of law school,” says Shannon Becket, one of the two students who developed the project.

CCLA Rights Watch Blog – PBSC National Project

Monitoring civil liberties abuses across the country is what the Canadian Civil Liberties Association does best, but limited resources pose considerable challenges for busy staff members. To help broaden the CCLA’s monitoring capabilities, PBSC students from every law school in the country are trained to monitor civil liberties issues and abuses in their local communities. The students then submit their posts to an on-line citizen news blog.The blog serves as an on-the-ground monitoring tool for the CCLA, creating an enormous source of support for the organization while offering an unparalleled opportunity for PBSC students to help direct the advocacy strategy of this venerable Canadian organization.

Not-for-Profit Corporate Law Project – PBSC University of Toronto

Many non-profit organizations in Ontario have vital business law needs, but lack the resources to pay lawyers for information or assistance. The Not-for-Profit Corporate Law Project(NPCLP) provides an amazing opportunity for student volunteers to bridge this gap, supporting organizations that perform valuable public interest work, while also gaining unparalleled early experience in corporate and business law matters. As part of the NPCLP project, PBSC students work with lawyers from McCarthy Tétrault LLP to provide legal assistance to community organizations in the areas of incorporation, charitable status registration, and corporate maintenance and governance, as well as other business law matters including assisting with constituting documents and general governance issues, general contract review and drafting, and some intellectual property matters. The NPCLP is the only U of T project that provides law students with hands-on experience in corporate and business law matters. Students also have the opportunity to conduct by-law review, obtain supplementary letters patent, and assist with the dissolution of existing non-profits.

Wills Project – PBSC Saskatchewan, University of Toronto, Osgoode Hall and Schulich School of Law (Dalhousie University)

Low-income seniors and people living with HIV/AIDS can face significant hurdles obtaining legal services. Estate planning is one vital service that is frequently out of reach for those without the resources to pay for legal assistance. To combat this problem, PBSC chapters at the University of Toronto and Osgoode Hall have been running a Wills Clinic since 1998 (the project was originally housed at CLASP at Osgoode Hall).  In 2011, PBSC expanded this project to serve the Saskatoon and Halifax communities. As part of this project, PBSC student volunteers work with private practice volunteer lawyers providing pro bono legal services to draft wills and powers of attorney for low-income clients living with HIV/AIDS (Toronto and Osgoode) and low-income seniors (Saskatchewan and Dalhousie).  Students conduct phone screening interviews, assist the lawyer in securing instructions for a will and/or powers of attorney, draft the documents and manage the client process.  Some students also develop and deliver public legal education workshops to individuals interested in more information on these topics. In Toronto, this project operates in partnership with Trust & Estates private practice lawyers from Basman Smith LLP  who volunteer their services.  Over the years, Basman Smith LLP has been instrumental in running this project, including the development of training materials and precedents for the project, training, mentoring and supervising PBSC students, and personally taking on dozens of clients on a pro bono basis as part of the project.  PBSC is particularly grateful to Mary Wahbi and Karen Yolevski of Basman Smith LLP for their incredible commitment to this important project.

Justice Harvey Brownstone “Family Matters” Internship – PBSC National Office

The set from Justice Brownstone’s show, Family Matters

Justice Harvey Brownstone is one of the most recognizable figures in Canadian family law. His popular online TV show, “Family Matters,” seeks to make Canada’s complicated family law system accessible to average Canadians. As of 2011- 2012 “Family Matters” will begin to air on 13 independent television stations.  Justice Brownstone is a longtime champion of access to justice. His show, Family Matters, aims to democratize the law by providing free information from top professionals who, until now, have never been accessible to the public. Along with his expert guests, Justice Brownstone illuminates the most pressing issues arising from the interplay between family relationships and the justice system. PBSC National Office has arranged for student interns to work with the show’s producers to research the topics that will be covered on the show, and to come up with new potential areas of discussion. Additionally, interns will have the opportunity to seek out leading members of the family law bar and bench to schedule as guests. PBSC is proud of our ongoing work with Justice Brownstone, who has been an outstanding supporter of our Family Law Project and other programs. Click here to read our profile of Justice Brownstone, or visit the Family Matters website. Justice Brownstone recently nominated PBSC for a national pro bono award. Click herefor information on that award.

Rural Entrepreneurial Legal Handbook Project – PBSC Queen’s University

In rural communities across Canada, access to legal information can present a massive challenge. The PBSC Queen’s chapter has set out to help address these access problems by researching and developing legal resources for rural communities in Eastern Ontario. Student volunteers are working to produce a legal handbook for entrepreneurs starting small, rural businesses in the region. The materials will be an invaluable resource for fledgling, independent entrepreneurs who would not otherwise be able to afford legal services. Through workshop sessions with the owners of recently launched businesses, students are learning about the legal challenges these entrepreneurs have faced, and the issues they are concerned about encountering in the future. After gathering this information, PBSC students plan to identify the top legal questions and concerns arising from the workshop discussions, research these issues, and develop a handbook to help rural entrepreneurs as they establish their businesses and help develop their communities. The project was created in partnership with the Moneison Centre at the Queen’s School of Business. The centre connects School of Business researchers with external organizations to better unite business theory and practice, with a focus on research related to the knowledge economy. After PBSC students develop this handbook in partnership with Moneison Centre staff, it will be distributed through the centre’s network of business and development organizations in Eastern Ontario.