The Advocates' Society is pleased to promote to our Ontario members the following opportunities to give back to their communities.

Pro Bono Students Canada

The organization: Pro Bono Students Canada (or "PBSC") was founded in 1996 and now has student-led Chapters at 22 law schools throughout Canada. PBSC engages approximately 1,500 law student volunteers each year to provide free legal information and services to assist people and communities facing barriers to justice.

The programs: PBSC's student-led Chapters run more than 500 projects annually, which match motivated law students with local community organizations to respond to barriers to justice across all areas of law. These projects primarily involve legal research and writing, public legal education, and/or client intake and assistance. The law students complete their placements under the supervision of qualified lawyers. Student volunteers at the various law schools are recruited annually in late August or early September and undergo PBSC training prior to commencing their placements in October. In addition to the above-described Chapter-based programming, PBSC's National Office runs two in-house projects, the Family Justice Centre and the Indigenous Human Rights Program, which operate year-round with their own rosters of student caseworkers and volunteer lawyers. All of PBSC's programming provides experiential learning for the law students and mentorship opportunities for the supervising lawyers.

The volunteer's role: Pro Bono Students Canada welcomes lawyer supervisors from all practice areas that are passionate about access to justice and interested in overseeing and mentoring law students doing pro bono work. Each local PBSC Chapter determines the projects that the students in its Chapter will pursue. Lawyer supervisors may qualify for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) credits in their respective jurisdictions.

How to get involved:
  • Lawyers interested in volunteering to supervise a PBSC project are encouraged to contact their local PBSC Chapter for further information. A listing of PBSC Chapters with links and email addresses can be found at: https://www.probonostudents.ca/chapters.
  • PBSC's National Office is also in need of Ontario lawyers with family law or human rights experience to expand the impact and reach of the Family Justice Centre and Indigenous Human Rights Program, respectively.

Women's Legal Education & Action Fund

The organization: The Women's Legal Education & Action Fund ("LEAF") is a national charitable organization that works to ensure the law guarantees substantive equality for all women, girls, trans, and non-binary people. It challenges laws, policies, and practices that discriminate against the equality guarantees enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, particularly sections 15 and 28.

The work: LEAF has a number of very interesting projects at present, including:
  • the feminist strategic litigation project (examining the use and impact of feminist strategic litigation to help LEAF, feminists, and gender justice advocates more effectively combat systemic discrimination and oppression)
  • the technology-facilitated violence project (bringing together feminist lawyers and academics to research and prepare a report imagining legal responses to technology-facilitated violence against women and gender-diverse people that are informed by equality principles)
  • the reproductive justice project (working to advance reproductive justice in Canada through law reform advocacy at the provincial and territorial levels)
  • the alternative justice mechanisms for survivors of sexual violence project (identifying legal barriers to alternative justice mechanisms for sexual violence).
The volunteer's role: LEAF welcomes volunteer lawyers on its case committees (guiding interventions) and advisory committees (guiding law reform projects), as pro bono counsel representing LEAF in interventions, and on its board of directors. LEAF also welcomes volunteer lawyers to provide advice on its own non-profit and charitable operations, and to assist with legal research to further LEAF’s public legal education initiatives, including in employment, human rights, and criminal law. For more information about volunteer opportunities please click here.

How to get involved:
  • To apply to join a committee or act as pro bono counsel, please complete the application form here.
  • To join LEAF's board of directors, please watch for notices on LEAF's News & Events page.
  • To assist with a legal research project or provide legal expertise regarding non-profits, please e-mail info@leaf.ca.

Pro Bono Ontario Programs

The organization: Pro Bono Ontario (or "PBO") was established in 2001 to develop and manage programs that connect volunteer lawyers with Ontarians who can't afford a lawyer and don't qualify for Legal Aid. PBO has since grown into a key part of Ontario's overall legal services delivery system, serving over 30,000 clients per year. The Advocates' Society has partnered with PBO on a number of pro bono projects that provide legal assistance to low-income Ontarians.

PBO is currently seeking volunteers to assist with the following services:

  1. Free Legal Advice Hotline

    The program: The Free Legal Advice Hotline helps Ontarians with everyday civil legal matters, including issues relating to civil procedure; employment; housing; consumer debt and protection; corporate law for charities, non-profits, and small businesses; and limited estates matters. Clients can call the Hotline for up to 30 minutes of free legal advice and assistance from a lawyer. In addition to summary legal advice, lawyers may review documents submitted by clients and help them draft simple legal documents like pleadings or demand letters. The Hotline does not provide assistance with criminal, family, or immigration law matters.

    The volunteer's role: Demand for Hotline services is skyrocketing. Pro Bono Ontario is seeking Ontario lawyers in good standing to volunteer to answer calls on the Hotline and provide summary advice and assistance to low-income Ontarians. Volunteers answer calls from their own homes or offices and can choose the areas in which they wish to assist. Volunteers can sign up for half-day (4 hours) or full-day shifts. A morning shift involves a commitment to be ready for on-boarding at 8:45 a.m., and to take calls from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. An afternoon shift involves a commitment to be ready for on-boarding at 12:45 p.m., and to take calls from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Interested volunteers are asked to sign up for at least one half-day shift per quarter. Volunteers are provided with technical training, real-time IT support, real-time legal support from PBO staff lawyers, and access to resources in a knowledge management library.

    How to get involved:

  2. Consumer Protection Initiative

    The program: Many seniors and vulnerable Ontarians fall victim to door-to-door sales scams that leave them on the hook for products they do not want or cannot afford. PBO and The Advocates' Society developed this program to provide pro bono representation to vulnerable consumers who have been targeted by unscrupulous door-to-door vendors. These consumers, many of whom are elderly, face enforcement proceedings relating to contracts that violate the Consumer Protection Act. PBO identifies these cases through its Free Legal Advice Hotline.

    The volunteer's role: Volunteer lawyers provide pro bono representation to clients facing enforcement proceedings or seeking legal remedies before the Small Claims Court or Superior Court of Justice. Volunteers are provided with training, precedents, and materials to help efficiently manage these files and achieve just and timely results for clients. While volunteers are not required to accept a minimum number of cases, they are encouraged to accept at least one per year.

    How to get involved: The opportunity to volunteer for the Consumer Protection Initiative is open to all lawyers with experience in civil litigation or consumer protection law.
    • If you are not already a PBO volunteer, please complete PBO’s Volunteer Application Form and indicate an interest in the consumer protection panel. PBO staff will reach out to you after you apply.
    • If you're already or PBO volunteer, or if you have any questions, please contact Adil Munim at adil@probonoontario.org.

  3. Education Law Program

    The program: Developed by a partnership of Pro Bono Ontario, The Advocates' Society, and Justice for Children and Youth, the Education Law Program offers free legal help to low- and moderate-income families whose children face challenges to their rights in public schools across the province. Problems may include unfair discipline, inability to access accommodations for special needs, bullying or other school safety issues. Through this program, volunteer lawyers help eligible students and their parents understand their legal rights and negotiate solutions when they feel unable to resolve conflicts with school administrators and officials.

    The volunteer's role: Volunteer lawyers consult with students and families about their legal rights, 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. Volunteers are provided with training, precedents, and mentorship. Volunteers should be prepared to handle at least one matter per year.

    How to get involved: No prior experience is required, but volunteers must complete a free CPD program prior to taking on a case.
    • If you are not already a PBO volunteer, please complete PBO’s Volunteer Application Form and indicate an interest in the Education Law Program. PBO staff will reach out to you after you apply.
    • If you’re already a PBO volunteer, or if you have any questions, please contact Nicole Kellow at nicole@probonoontario.org.

Ontario Securities Commission Litigation Assistance Program and Duty Counsel Program

The program: The Advocates' Society's Securities Litigation Practice Group started the Ontario Securities Commission Litigation Assistance Program and Duty Counsel Program to offer pro bono services to unrepresented parties to enforcement proceedings or applications for hearing and review before the Ontario Securities Commission Tribunal.

The volunteer's role:
  • The Litigation Assistance Program provides pro bono counsel to assist unrepresented parties with preliminary attendances, prehearing conferences, settlement conferences, settlement hearings, sanctions and costs hearings, and certain motions.
  • The Duty Counsel Program provides pro bono summary legal information, advice, and representation to unrepresented parties at preliminary attendances, conferences, and sanctions and costs hearings, on the day of the attendance.
How to get involved: Applications to join the roster of volunteer counsel for both the Litigation Assistance Program and the Duty Counsel Program are solicited periodically from the members of The Advocates' Society's Securities Litigation Practice Group. Among other experience-related requirements, volunteers are required to have a mentor who is a senior member of the securities litigation bar and to complete free training. Volunteers are appointed to the roster for three-year terms. Please contact James Camp, a member of The Advocates' Society's program Steering Committee, at james@campadvocacy.com, for more information about these programs.

Duty Counsel Program for Law Society of Ontario Disciplinary Hearings

The program: The Advocates' Society runs a program that provides duty counsel to unrepresented lawyers facing disciplinary proceedings before the Law Society of Ontario Discipline Committee.

The volunteer's role: Volunteer duty counsel are scheduled on specific days to be available for unrepresented lawyers appearing before the LSO's Discipline Committee. Duty counsel can speak to adjournments, help finalize agreed statements of fact, act on consent findings of professional misconduct or conduct unbecoming, and speak to penalty. Volunteers are provided with Duty Counsel Training Materials and free training sessions.

How to get involved: The Advocates' Society periodically solicits applications for the LSO Duty Counsel Roster. Only members of The Advocates' Society may apply. Please contact David Mollica, TAS Director of Policy & Professional Development, at david@advocates.ca for more information about this program.

Please click here to see further national opportunities for all TAS members.