Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family Publishes Report on Summary Legal Advice Services

A recent “Summary Legal Advice Services in Alberta” report from the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family (CRILF) examines two years of data from almost 8,000 client surveys regarding summary legal advice received from community legal clinics in Alberta. The clinics that participated in the study are:

  • Calgary Legal Guidance
  • Edmonton Community Legal Centre
  • Central Alberta Community Legal Clinic (Red Deer)
  • Lethbridge Legal Guidance

Key findings from the report include:

  • 93% of clients were very comfortable or comfortable receiving legal advice in English
    • Of note: It was impossible to determine the number of potential clients who did not attend the clinics because they are uncomfortable receiving legal advice in English
  • Family law matters accounted for 46% of clients’ legal problems, followed by landlord-tenant disputes (14%) and immigration and sponsorship issues (9%); family law matters were most likely to a problem for clients aged 35 to 44
  • 90% of clients reported that they had a better understanding of their legal rights and responsibilities, their legal options and the pros and cons of those options, and what to do next as a result of attending the clinic
  • 40% of clients had 15 to 29 minutes with the clinic lawyer; 38% had 30 to 44 minutes
  • 90% of clients felt they had enough time with the clinic lawyer to talk; clients with appointments longer than 30 minutes were more likely to agree that they had a better understanding of their legal issue and what to do next than clients with shorter appointments
  • Almost two-thirds of clients received a written summary of the lawyer’s advice; those receiving a summary were more likely to agree that they understood their legal rights and responsibilities, their legal options and the pros and cons of those options, and what to do next
  • The number of clients receiving a written summary increased by 14% between the first and second years of the project
  • The majority of clients responding to a follow-up survey administered two months after clients’ appointments had made use of the advice they received
  • 63% of clients were women, 54% were between the ages of 25 and 44, 61% had completed or taken some post-secondary education and 40% were employed full- or part-time

The complete “Summary Legal Advice Services in Alberta: Survey Results from the First Two Years of Data Collection” report is available on the CRILF website here: http://www.crilf.ca/Documents/ALF_Clinic_Survey_Year_2_-_May_2018.pdf. This report was produced at the request of the Alberta Law Foundation.

 

The details in this post were taken from information circulated by the CRILF.

Access to Justice: Action Committee Looks at Problems, Innovative Solutions / Accès à la justice : le Comité d’action aborde les problèmes à la recherche de solutions innovatrices

La version française suit.

Access to justice leaders from coast to coast to coast met for two and one-half days in Ottawa in April at the annual summit of the Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters. These people know better than most how big a challenge we face in improving access to justice. But that did not temper the enthusiasm for what has been accomplished or weaken the resolve to keep working for change.

Delegates representing the broad coalition that makes up the action committee — deputy ministers, the judiciary, provincial and territorial access to justice groups, legal aid plans, pro bono groups, public legal education providers, the bar, notaries, ADR professionals, administrative tribunals and the public — heard of the success of the action committee’s public engagement initiative and its innovation tool box project. Thousands of people engaged with the need for an effective civil and family justice system and people across Canada active in justice innovation developed communities of practice and other tools to help them with their important work. Sarah McCoubrey and Meredith Brown, access to justice strategists with Calibrate, designed and executed both projects, which were funded by the Law Foundation of Ontario.

The group also was given an update on progress on the action committee’s Justice Development Goals. Sixty-eight new initiatives to help people address everyday legal problems; 64 new initiatives designed to better meet legal needs, including eight new pro bono services; 50 projects aimed at improving family justice. And the list goes on.

One of the challenges facing reformers is the dearth of empirical evidence about how our civil and family justice system works and how to know if our reforms are having the intended effect. The improvement in justice metrics is a critical element of any long-term plan for systemic change. People at the summit learned of a project spearheaded by Jerry McHale which is bringing together a strong coalition to work on this topic. Bringing to together researchers at the faculties of law at the University of Victoria, University of Saskatchewan, York University and University of Montreal, the initiative’s goal is to develop priorities for justice system metrics and to build capacity for data gathering and analysis. And feeding into that effort was the work at the summit to begin to develop indicators; that is, things we can measure, in relation to each of the Justice Development Goals.

A full day of the summit was devoted to the issue of Indigenous child welfare. Organized by Scott Robertson of the Indigenous Bar Association and Mark Benton of the Legal Services Society of B.C., distinguished speakers from across Canada led us through an intense and impactful overview of the woeful state of services for Indigenous children and families in many parts of our country. While not usually discussed as an access to justice issue, the presentations at the summit showed that it certainly is. The child welfare system almost everywhere in Canada is not meeting the needs of children, families or communities. The speakers at the summit helped participants not only to better understand the problem, but also to hear about promising solutions. Better funding, more community leadership, more culturally appropriate options and a wider focus on the whole family were some of the aspects discussed.

To cap the summit, Beverley McLachlin, recently retired as chief justice of Canada, confirmed that she has agreed to assume the chair of the action committee this autumn. Her successor as chief justice, Richard Wagner, confirmed that he has accepted to take on the role of honourary chair of the action committee, following in his predecessor’s footsteps. Stay tuned!

All of us concerned about access to justice will not be satisfied until there is a great deal more improvement. But this gathering of leaders demonstrated that there is a growing commitment to make the necessary change and an impressive array of innovative projects showing that making that change is possible.
This article originally appeared on The Lawyer’s Daily on June 20, 2018. It is the eighth article in The Honourable Thomas Cromwell’s exclusive Lawyer’s Daily column dedicated to access to civil and family justice.

The Honourable Thomas Cromwell served 19 years as an appellate judge and chairs the Chief Justice’s Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters. He retired from the Supreme Court of Canada in September of 2016 and is now senior counsel to the national litigation practice at Borden Ladner Gervais.


En avril, des chefs de file sur les questions d’accès à la justice, venus des quatre coins du pays, se sont réunis pendant deux jours et demi à Ottawa, pour participer au sommet annuel du Comité d’action sur l’accès à la justice en matière civile et familiale. Ce sont des gens particulièrement bien placés pour savoir à quel point il peut être difficile d’améliorer l’accès à la justice. Mais cela ne les a pas empêchés de se réjouir des progrès accomplis, et ils restent déterminés à amener de plus amples changements par leur travail assidu.

Les délégués représentant la vaste coalition des parties membres du Comité d’action – des sous-ministres, des juges, des représentants de groupes provinciaux et territoriaux d’accès à la justice, de régimes d’aide juridique, des professionnels qui offrent bénévolement des services juridiques, des fournisseurs de services d’éducation juridique du public, des avocats, des notaires, des professionnels du règlement extrajudiciaire des différends (RED), ainsi que des représentants de tribunaux administratifs et du grand public –, ont été informés du succès que le Comité d’action a obtenu avec son initiative de consultation publique et son projet de boîte à outils de l’innovation. Des milliers de personnes consultées ont confirmé la nécessité d’assurer un système efficace de justice civile et familiale, et des gens de tout le Canada agissant pour l’innovation en matière de justice ont quant à eux mis en place des communautés de pratique et d’autres outils pour faciliter leur important travail. Sarah McCoubrey et Meredith Brown, stratèges sur les questions d’accès à la justice au sein de l’organisation Calibrate, ont conçu et mis à exécution les deux projets, qui ont été financés par la Fondation du droit de l’Ontario.

Le groupe a aussi été mis au courant des progrès qu’a réalisés le Comité d’action par rapport à ses Objectifs de développement en matière de justice : 68 nouvelles initiatives pour aider les gens à résoudre des problèmes juridiques courants; 64 nouvelles initiatives conçues pour mieux répondre aux besoins juridiques, dont huit nouveaux services juridiques offerts bénévolement par des professionnels; 50 projets visant à améliorer le système de justice familiale; et la liste se poursuit.

Une des difficultés auxquelles les réformateurs doivent faire face tient à la pénurie de données empiriques sur la façon dont fonctionne notre système de justice civile et familiale, et sur ce que nous pouvons faire pour savoir si nos réformes donnent les effets escomptés. Tout plan pour la réalisation d’un changement systémique à long terme doit nécessairement passer par l’amélioration des paramètres de mesure de ces données. Les participants au sommet ont été informés d’un projet mené par Jerry McHale, qui rassemble une solide coalition œuvrant en ce sens, formée de chercheurs des facultés de droit de l’Université de Victoria, de l’Université de la Saskatchewan, de l’Université York et de l’Université de Montréal. L’objectif du projet consiste à déterminer les priorités de mesure pour les données relatives au système de justice, et de renforcer la capacité de collecte et d’analyse de ces données. Les participants au sommet y ont contribué en entamant l’élaboration d’indicateurs – c’est-à-dire des éléments que nous pouvons mesurer par rapport à chacun des Objectifs de développement en matière de justice.

Une journée entière du sommet a été consacrée à la question des services d’aide aux enfants autochtones. Cette journée était organisée par Scott Robertson de l’Association du Barreau autochtone et de Mark Benton de la Legal Services Society de Colombie-Britannique, et d’éminents conférenciers d’un peu partout au Canada nous y ont donné un aperçu criant et saisissant de l’état déplorable dans lequel se trouvent les services destinés aux enfants et familles autochtones, à de nombreux endroits au pays. Bien que ce ne soit habituellement pas traité comme un enjeu d’accès à la justice, les exposés entendus au sommet ont démontré que c’en était bel et bien un. Presque partout au Canada, le système de protection de l’enfance ne répond aux besoins ni des enfants, ni des familles, ni des collectivités concernées. Les conférenciers du sommet ont permis aux participants non seulement de mieux comprendre la problématique, mais aussi de prendre connaissance de solutions prometteuses. Parmi les aspects traités, il y avait notamment l’amélioration du financement, le renforcement du leadership communautaire, l’élaboration de possibilités mieux adaptées à la réalité culturelle, et l’élargissement du cadre d’intervention afin d’y inclure toute la famille.

Pour couronner le tout, Beverley McLachlin, récemment retraitée de ses fonctions de juge en chef du Canada, a confirmé qu’elle avait accepté d’assumer la présidence du Comité d’action à partir de cet automne. Son successeur à titre de juge en chef, Richard Wagner, a quant à lui confirmé qu’il suivrait ses traces en acceptant la présidence honoraire. Ce sera donc à suivre!

Nous tous, qui nous préoccupons d’accès à la justice, continuerons de veiller au grain tant et aussi longtemps que les choses ne se seront pas nettement améliorées. Entre-temps, cette rencontre de chefs de file en la matière a montré que de plus en plus de parties s’engagent à effectuer les changements nécessaires, et la gamme impressionnante de projets innovateurs qui y ont été présentés tend à démontrer que ces changements sont tout à fait possibles.

L’honorable Thomas Cromwell a été juge d’appel pendant 19 ans et siège au Comité d’action sur l’accès à la justice en matière civile et familiale établi à la demande de la juge en chef. Il a pris sa retraite de la Cour suprême du Canada en septembre 2016 et agit désormais comme avocat-conseil principal dans le domaine du contentieux à l’échelle nationale, au sein du cabinet Borden Ladner Gervais.

Cyberjustice Laboratory launches major “Autonomy through Cyberjustice Technologies” Research Project

The Cyberjustice Laboratory (Laboratoire de Cyberjustice) in Montreal has launched a 6-year research initiative to examine artificial intelligence in the justice sector. This Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) funded project includes 16 sub-projects, and a multi-disciplinary and international team of 45 researchers and 42 partners.

The Autonomy through Cyberjustice Technologies (ACT) research project by the Cyberjustice Laboratory will provide greater understanding of the socio-legal and ethical underpinnings of applying and integrating artificial intelligence tools within the justice system. More information about this important research initiative, being led Professor Karim Benyekhlef, Direcor of the Cyberjustice Laboratory, is available in the press release, available in English here: http://cyberjustice.openum.ca/files/sites/102/PressReleaseACT.pdf, and in French here: http://www.cyberjustice.ca/files/sites/102/CommuniqueAJC-VFinale.pdf. Visit the Autonomy through Cyberjustice Technologies (ACT) website here: https://www.ajcact.org/.

A2J Initiative by Clicklaw and the Provincial Court of BC Offers Help for Self-Represented Litigants

The Provincial Court of British Columbia, in partnership with Clicklaw, have created (regularly updated) mobile-friendly guides to online legal information resources for self-represented litigants, and others who require assistance when starting out on the path to problem resolution for Provincial Court matters.

Intermediaries and court-adjunct staff can find more information on how to access information and resources to assist self-represented persons from this poster: http://blog.clicklaw.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/handout-light-clicklaw-bcpc.pdf. Clicklaw and the Provincial Court of BC encourage you to share the poster. To learn more about the partnership between the Provincial Court of BC and Clicklaw, read the eNews announcement on the Provincial Court of BC website here: http://www.provincialcourt.bc.ca/enews/enews-29-09-2015.

New Report Examines the Role of Assisted Digital Support Services for Civil Justice System Users in the UK

The recently published “Assisted Digital Support for Civil Justice System Users: Demand, Design, & Implementation” report offers insight into the use of ‘assisted digital support’ (ADS) to facilitate access to online civil justice services among low-income earners, the elderly, people living in social housing and people without degrees in the UK. The report indicates that ADS services, including face-to-face assistance and web chat can be useful for engaging people online. The report also recommends additional research into whether or to what extent ADS services are helpful for people without “legal capability”. Quoting the report, this article highlights the following: “That users undertake a range of activities online is not to say that they have the capability to undertake legal processes online”.

“Assisted Digital Support for Civil Justice System Users: Demand, Design, & Implementation” was prepared for the Civil Justice Council (UK) by Catrina Denvir, with the assistance of Reem Ayad, Nerissa Morales Cordoba, Mbeti Michuki, Adel Msolly and Annie Wood. The full report can be accessed here: https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/cjc-report-on-assisted-digital-support.pdf.

Recently Published Research by The Law Foundation of Ontario Examines the Role of Intermediaries in Connecting Ontarians to Legal Information and Legal Help

The Law Foundation of Ontario has published new research on the role of community workers who help people with legal problems.  In many cases frontline workers, including settlement workers, parks and recreation staff, counsellors, nurses and librarians, among others, are the first (and only) resource that people go to for help with justiciable problems.  These intermediaries play an important role in identifying legal problems and connecting people with information and resources that can be helpful.

The final report from this research – Trusted Help: the role of community workers as trusted intermediaries who help people with legal problems – offers insight into the ways that trusted intermediaries provide help, including:

  •    Referring people to legal service providers
  •     Providing information about legal rights and procedures
  •     Identifying legal problems
  •     Helping people to take steps to resolve a legal problem
  •     Providing assistance to complete legal forms and documentation
  •     Accompanying people to tribunal or court hearings
  •     Accompanying people to meetings with legal service providers

Trusted Help: the role of community workers as trusted intermediaries who help people with legal problems was prepared by Karen Cohl, Julie Lassonde, Julie Mathews, Carol Lee Smith, and George Thomson for the Law Foundation of Ontario. An overview of this research is available in this Law Foundation of Ontario announcement: http://www.lawfoundation.on.ca/news/legal-help-on-the-frontlines/.

Learn more about the ways that trusted intermediaries help people access legal help and services as well as how to work with, support, and collaborate with trusted intermediaries from parts one and two of this Law Foundation of Ontario report available here: http://www.lawfoundation.on.ca/wp-content/uploads/LFO_TrustedHelpReport_Part1_EN.pdf and here: http://www.lawfoundation.on.ca/wp-content/uploads/LFO_TrustedHelpReport_Part2_EN.pdf.

Ces rapports sont disponibles en français ici : http://www.lawfoundation.on.ca/wp-content/uploads/LFO_FR_TrustedHelpReport_Part1.pdf et ici: http://www.lawfoundation.on.ca/wp-content/uploads/LFO_FR_TrustedHelpReport_Part2.pdf.

 

Government of Canada Introduces New Family Law Legislation

The Government of Canada has introduced new legislation aimed at modernizing and strengthening family justice—making it the first substantial update of Canada’s federal family laws in 20 years.

On May 22nd, the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, introduced legislation that would amend three federal family laws: the Divorce Act, the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act (FOAEAA) and the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act (GAPDA). The legislation has four key objectives: to promote the best interests children, address family violence, curb child poverty and make Canada’s family justice system more accessible and efficient.

Additional information on these new measures can be accessed here: https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/government-of-canada-announces-new-measures-to-strengthen-and-modernize-family-justice-683335701.html.

Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family (CRILF) Publishes Reports on the Priority Prolific Offender Program (PPOP)

The Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family (CRILF) has published three reports that evaluate the Priority Prolific Offender Program (PPOP) over three years between 2012 and 2017.

The PPOP is an initiative by the Alberta Ministry of Justice and Solicitor General, in partnership with the Calgary Police Service, Edmonton Police Service and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The goal of the Program is to stop regular offenders from reoffending. It aims to do this in part through better collaboration among the groups that are involved in the Program.  With improved collaboration, Crown Prosecutors will have complete, accurate and up-to-date information on prolific offenders and, support services and rehabilitation can be promoted to individuals who can benefit from these services.

The reports from the three-year evaluation provide valuable information as to the efficacy of the Program, its process and selection criteria, the satisfaction of stakeholders, staff insights, the Program’s social value and its impact on offenders’ behaviour.

Evaluations of Years 1, 2 and 3 of the Priority Prolific Offender Program can be accessed on the CRILF website here: http://www.crilf.ca/publications.htm.

Access to Justice: Current Crop of Law Students Committed, Enthusiastic – Thomas Cromwell

This blog originally appeared on The Lawyer’s Daily on April 18, 2018. It is the seventh blog in The Honourable Thomas Cromwell’s exclusive Lawyer’s Daily column dedicated to access to civil and family justice.

It is easy to get discouraged by the slow pace of progress on improving access to justice. But a constant source of encouragement is the enthusiasm and commitment of the current generation of law students.

Everywhere I encounter today’s law student, I see concern about the injustice of our current poor level of access to justice, interest in what can be done to improve it, and commitment to be part of the change to bring about that improvement. The interest and enthusiasm of students for work in legal clinics and with Pro Bono Students Canada and other access-oriented activities are some of the tangible evidence of their concern, interest and commitment.

I recently had the privilege and pleasure of being part of another manifestation of law students’ engagement with access to justice. The Society of Law Students at Thompson Rivers University organized a two-day conference on access to justice. The program can be found here.

In addition to presentations by students and faculty, the students hosted a number of special guests, including the Honourable Robert Bauman, chief justice of British Columbia, the Honourable Len Marchand, a justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia and the Honourable David Eby, minister of justice and attorney general of British Columbia. The organization was entirely student-directed and participation throughout the student body was significant.

I spoke with one of the co-chairs of the conference, Dave Barroqueiro, who is a second-year student. Dave’s take on access to justice and the profession’s role in improving it is bang on and shows how the next generation of lawyers understands the problem and wants to help to solve it. I asked him what lessons he drew from his work on the access to justice problem.

He started by speaking of the need for culture change: “The culture of law and of lawyers must change, and society isn’t willing to wait any longer. The legal industry itself, the profession’s self-insulation, and our paralyzing risk aversion, are undoubtedly major contributors to the access to justice crisis in Canada.”

He also recognized the role that lawyers and legal profession should and must play in improving access to justice: “ … the key to unlocking the solution to the access to justice crisis rests in the hands of legal professionals themselves — we simply need to be willing to adjust to the rapidly changing needs and demands of contemporary, digital-age clients.”

He stressed what he believes is the important part technology can have in bringing about the necessary changes: “Increasing the agility of lawyers and the efficiency of the delivery of legal services ought to be the principal focuses of the legal profession going forward.”

Finally, he recognized what many commentators have stressed: The necessity of responding better to the needs of the public seeking legal services. As he put it, “To think that we, even as a self-regulating profession, can overwhelm consumer-driven market forces for much longer is a delusion. The future practice of law will depend on an active, informed understanding of client needs.”

My impression is that Barroqueiro’s views are not unique. I believe they are shared by a lot of law students. Those in positions of power and influence should encourage and support this kind of thinking in the next generation of lawyers and at least make a start on the important work that they are keen to take up as they progress in their legal careers.

We are leaving them a big access to justice challenge. But I believe that they are up to it.

The Honourable Thomas Cromwell served 19 years as an appellate judge and chairs the Chief Justice’s Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters. He retired from the Supreme Court of Canada in September of 2016 and is now senior counsel to the national litigation practice at Borden Ladner Gervais.

Law Reviews are now available on CanLII

The Canadian Legal Information Institutes’s (CanLII’s) secondary sources section now includes law reviews. As it is explained in the CanLII announcement, “Law reviews are often the only place a particular topic is discussed, and they often provide insight into the law for a particular jurisdiction where no one else does that make them invaluable for research.” Information on how to search law reviews, the law reviews that are currently available and how to recommend other law reviews to be included on CanLII is available here: https://blog.canlii.org/2018/03/23/%e2%98%80%ef%b8%8f-we-now-have-law-reviews-on-canlii-%e2%98%80%ef%b8%8f/.

(Photo credit: CanLII)