The Advocates' Society is committed to giving back to the community through pro bono. Looking for an opportunity to make a difference? Find it here.
Pro Bono Law Ontario celebrated the five-year anniversary of Law Help Ontario honouring its volunteers - many of whom are members of The Advocates' Society. Thank you to all our members who give their time to this worthy program! Click here to view pictures and read an article on the event from Precedent Magazine.
The guidelines for The Advocates' Society's new or increased involvement in existing pro bono projects can be found here.
Our members make meaningful contributions to the administration of justice by assisting unrepresented solicitors at Law Society Discipline Committee Hearings. Duty counsel speak to adjournments, help finalize agreed statements of fact, act on consent findings of professional misconduct or conduct unbecoming, and speak to penalty. We are always on the look out for French-speaking volunteers and volunteers with experience in mental health law.
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The Securities Litigation Practice Group started the OSC Litigation Assistance Program (LAP) in 2011 as a pilot project with five volunteer counsel. The pilot was incredibly successful and has been extended and expanded. The LAP offers volunteer litigation services to unrepresented respondents appearing in enforcement proceedings for the Ontario Securities Commission. The volunteer counsel assist unrepresented respondents in enforcement cases in four select areas:
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There are three programs in the Appeals Assistance Project. For more information on any of these projects, please click here or contact Brian Houghton, Law Help Ontario Project Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Appeals Assistance Project is a pro bono "matching program" in which self-represented appellants and respondents apply for pro bono assistance with appeals.
For each case where pro bono assistance is sought, roster volunteers receive the reasons of the decision being appealed and, if available, the notice of appeal. A roster volunteer who is interested in assisting would then advise Pro Bono Ontario and obtain further information.
When an interested roster volunteer is matched with a party seeking assistance, a lawyer/client relationship is created and a retainer agreement for pro bono services is recommended. A volunteer may assist on either a full representation basis or a limited scope basis. Limited scope representation may include, for example, providing an initial consultation to the client, assisting with drafting written materials or with preparing oral argument, as the volunteer deems appropriate depending on the circumstances.
The Crown Wardship Appeals Project is a partnership between The Advocates’ Society and Pro Bono Ontario and is administered with the assistance of the Ontario Court of Justice, Superior Court of Justice and Court of Appeal for Ontario.
Volunteers represent low-income litigants appealing Crown Wardship No Access Orders. Litigants may apply for assistance once a Notice of Appeal has been filed.
When an interested roster volunteer is matched with a party seeking assistance, a lawyer/client relationship is created and a retainer agreement for pro bono services is recommended.
The Federal Court Assistance Project was launched in April 2010 through a partnership of The Advocates' Society and PBLO. The project provides low-income, unrepresented litigants in the Federal Court with the assistance of counsel on matters with a reasonable prospect of success. While it is expected that counsel will provide full representation in matters of interest to them, there may be scope for more limited assistance as the project develops. Lawyers at any level of practice are welcome to participate, but either sufficient Federal Court experience or mentorship must be demonstrated.
The Amicus/Duty Counsel program for motions allows lawyers to help self-represented litigants with in-person family motions at the Court of Appeal. Volunteers will be scheduled on days when family law motions are expected to be heard, and will be provided with filed material in advance (though the amount of time between receipt of the material and the hearing of the motions is likely to be short). Because the scheduling is not entirely predictable, roster volunteers may be asked to be "on-call" to respond to family law-related questions on motions.
When serving in the amicus role, duty counsel lawyers are not entering into a lawyer/client relationship. The essence of the role is to assist the Court and the self-represented litigants appearing before it by ensuring that those litigants are properly heard.
Since 2002, The Advocates' Society has been helping safeguard the public education rights of low-income children and youth across Ontario. Through the Child Advocacy Project's (CAP) Education Law Program, our members provide summary advice, verbal and written intervention with school administrators, and representation at hearings and tribunals for children and youth whose legal rights at school are denied. Lawyers involved in thi project have handled 1000 cases - with a success rate of over 90%!
CAP is a volunteer-based legal service run in partnership with Pro Bono Law Ontario, The Advocates' Society (TAS) and Justice for Children and Youth (JFCY), the province's only specialty legal clinic for youth under 18.
To participate in the program, our members require no prior experience in education law, only the expert training and ongoing mentoring provided by the staff lawyers at JFCY. CAP frequently hears from families in rural and northern communities, where local legal resources are unavailable. For this reason, volunteers are sometimes asked to provide remote legal services, by telephone or Skype. The Advocates' Society endorses remote legal services because, in many cases, they are the only way to ensure that children's rights at school are upheld.
“X” was suspended from school on October 31, 2012. According to documentation the family received “X” should have been allowed to return to school on November 28th. However, after the suspension expired the family was told that “X” could still not return to school. The family contacted the school numerous times but the reason for the suspension was never disclosed. The school advised the family that “X” was under investigation by the police and as such they were unable to reveal the reason for the suspension or allow “X” to return to school. To date “X” is still not in school. The family has requested assistance from a CAP volunteer with appealing the suspension.
Law Help Ontario is an award-winning project of PBLO that provides pro bono legal services in civil, non-family matters to unrepresented litigants who cannot afford to hire a lawyer and who do not qualify for Legal Aid. The project currently operates two court-based self-help centres in Toronto, one at the 393 University Avenue Courthouse and the other at the Toronto Small Claims Court, 47 Sheppard Avenue East. The project also operates a self-help centre at 161 Elgin Street in Ottawa. In the future, centres may be launched in other locations across Ontario.
Members of the Society are encouraged to volunteer as duty counsel at the centres. Volunteers have the opportunity to provide brief summary advice and may, on occasion, represent litigants at examinations, settlement conferences, court hearings, or other attendances related to their matters.
This project is primarily aimed at junior-intermediate lawyers but there are no experience-based restrictions. Completion of a CLE program and familiarity with the civil process including the Rules of Civil Procedure is required. The CLE program can be tailored to ensure it is as convenient as possible for volunteer lawyers.
The time commitment for this project is one full day (or two half days) per quarter from 9:15 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
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