Family Law Project (FLP) by ProvincePrint
In partnership with the Legal Services Society (LSS), PBSC students at the University of Victoria and the University of British Columbia provide family law assistance to clients. Using the LSS’s “LiveHelp” system, students provide legal information via instant messaging to clients online.
The University of Calgary established one of the first FLP programs outside of Ontario, and launched in early 2005 with a six-week pilot project. At that time, twenty students volunteered to help court workers at the Provincial Court for one three-hour shift per week, where they assisted in performing intakes with court workers. Since then, the Calgary FLP has grown into an important legal service in the city, with students fulfilling a critical role by providing legal information and connecting unrepresented individuals with the various legal services available in the city.
In partnership with the family legal advice clinic at CLASSIC (Community Legal Assistance Services for Saskatoon Inner City), PBSC students work alongside lawyers to conduct client intakes. Students sit in on client consultations with lawyers and take notes on legal information provided, creating an important reference document to assist the client in navigating the family law system.
PBSC students from all six law schools in Ontario participate in the FLP, providing services to unrepresented litigants in Windsor, Kingston, Ottawa, London, Toronto, North York, Milton and Brampton. Student volunteers are placed in family law courts and Family Law Information Centres, where they work with Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) duty counsel lawyers and support staff to provide legal information and document preparation assistance. “Every day, students assist clients who are unable to complete forms on their own for reasons such as literacy, language barriers, and difficulty in understanding the complex documents,” says Caroline Brett, FLP coordinator at the University of Toronto for 2010-2011. “Without this assistance, many litigants may not be able to satisfy a judge of a deserving claim, or may decide not to bring their case to the family courts at all.” In addition to helping litigants, the work of PBSC students enhances the efficiency of court procedures by allowing judges to more easily discern and rule on the legal issues involved. LAO lawyers, who supervise all student work, are also able to manage a larger volume of clients in need of assistance through the support of PBSC volunteers. In 2009, PBSC students provided assistance to 1,250 litigants across all outlets in Ontario, and the program continues to expand every year.
The FLP at PBSC’s Dalhousie chapter was launched in 2004, and has been a huge success. Student volunteers work with the Family Law Information Centre at the Supreme Court Family Division in Halifax. Every year, PBSC students provide legal information, procedural guidance, and assistance completing court forms to between 800 and 1200 clients. “The Family Law Project at Dalhousie was one of the best experiences I had in law school,” says Gillian Scarlett, PBSC’s National Coordinator and former FLP volunteer. “No matter where I end up in practice, this program has inspired me to commit to a career of providing free legal services for vulnerable people in need.”
The Family Law Legal Information Project (FLLIP) in Fredericton is the newest addition to PBSC’s FLP program. After the budget of New Brunswick’s Domestic Legal Aid program was cut, PBSC observed a gap in support services and increased waiting periods, creating an especially problematic situation for at-risk women in need of assistance. In response, students from the University of New Brunswick created and launched the project. In partnership with local shelters, PBSC students connect with women who have experienced domestic violence to provide free legal information and assistance navigating the family law system. After a very successful first year, FLLIP is planning to expand their client base, working with additional women’s shelters, the Multicultural Association of Fredericton, and the city’s Legal Advice Clinic. Kathy Moulton, a former program coordinator, was recently recognized for her role launching the FLP in Frederiction through the Family Law Legal Information Project. She received a Lexpert Zenith Platinum Award for her efforts at PBSC New Brunswick. For more information on Kathy, see our profile.