A Law Times story this week describes a new study by the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice.
In the study, senior research fellow Ab Currie — who has 30 years of experience at Justice Canada — found that a pilot project in Southwestern Ontario legal clinics has successfully tapped into unmet legal needs, through a community partnership approach with 125 organizations and service agencies.
The legal health checkup helps workers in the field recognize potential legal problems of disadvantaged people they interact with and then asks them if they want to be contacted by a legal clinic.
The concept is a familiar one — leveraging community connections to help people figure out when they need help.
“Experience so far has proven that the approach works,” says Currie. So, why does this study matter to lawyers? In my view, it’s a holistic approach to law that takes an overall view of the court system into consideration. People with unmet legal needs grapple with serious issues.
But by identifying these needs and connecting people to legal clinics, early interventions could make good public policy and help the administration of justice on matters such as family law, labour and employment law or housing rights.
“Clients that have gone through the intake process appear, on the whole, to be quite favourable toward the LHC form and the process they have experienced,” said the study. The law has many facets — including how it serves all Canadians.
The profession buzzes about access to justice. It’s initiatives like this one that might figure out how such an impossible goal may be achieved, starting with very small steps.