TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Oct. 31, 2012) - Law Help Ontario--a free court-based service operated by Pro Bono Law Ontario (PBLO)--will receive the National Pro Bono Program Award on November 1, 2012 at the 4th National Pro Bono Conference to be held in Montreal, Quebec.
Law Help Ontario addresses the overwhelming need to improve access to justice for tens of thousands of low-income, self-represented litigants; particularly those suing or being sued in the civil courts where there is no government-funded legal advice. The program helps these people better navigate the civil justice system by giving them a personalized mix of plain language information, help with court forms, legal advice and representation at some hearings. Law Help Ontario has served over 43,000 clients since launching in 2007. It is Canada's first program to use volunteer lawyers to provide self-help assistance in a court-based setting.
"The people we help have problems that are a major disruption to their lives, and they have nowhere else to turn." says PBLO's Past-President and Law Help Ontario volunteer, David W. Scott. "This national award is major honour and a testament to PBLO's ability to create meaningful solutions to some of the justice system's most pressing problems."
There are three centres - two in Toronto and one in Ottawa - that specialize in Small Claims and Superior Court matters. The centres, along with a website (www.lawhelpontario.org) and a toll-free number, are access points for people with matters before the Small Claims and Superior Courts, Court of Appeal, Federal Court, Federal Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada.
Volunteers from firms of all sizes, in-house legal departments and government give face-to-face guidance on essential issues including the merit of cases, how to communicate with opposing parties and how to present an argument in court. These face-to-face meetings give clients both guidance and reassurance that the legal profession is there for them.
PBLO is a charity founded in 2001 with a mandate to improve access to justice by promoting and facilitating opportunities for lawyers to provide free legal services to low-income Ontarians with civil, non-family, problems. PBLO is funded in part by The Law Foundation of Ontario and The Law Society of Upper Canada, and through generous donations from Ontario lawyers and law firms. It is one of Canada's largest volunteer-based legal service providers. Visit www.pblo.org for more information.
The National Pro Bono Program Award recognizes the outstanding pro bono contribution of a Canadian pro bono program that increases access to legal services for the poor by:
- Addressing a gap in existing services or the unmet legal needs of a community;
- Using innovative strategies to increase access to justice;
- Enhancing private bar participation in pro bono activities; and
- Promoting collaboration between legal and community service providers.
For more information about the 4th National Pro Bono Conference, visit www.probonoconference.ca.