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ProBono Law Saskatchewan free legal phone clinic one of many Law Day events

Monday, April 16, 2018 @ 12:16 PM | By Carolyn Gruske

In a departure from its usual practice, ProBono Law Saskatchewan is opening up phone lines to anybody who needs legal advice, even if they can afford to pay for a lawyer.

The phone clinic, which is being organized in conjunction with the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) Saskatchewan branch, will run on April 17-18, 2018, and is being offered as a Law Day event.

Law Day is typically celebrated in April on or around the 17th of the month, in order to recall the day the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was signed in 1982, but some organizations choose to hold events earlier or later in the month, and others turn the occasion into a longer Law Week series of activities.

The phone clinic is ProBono Law Saskatchewan’s only Law Day event, but after promoting it on social media, it’s likely to be a highly successful one.

“We usually do this every year, and this year, we just happened to post it on Facebook, and it blew up,” said Carly Romanow, executive director and staff lawyer at ProBono Law Saskatchewan.

“There is a bigger presence in the public. They are more aware of events like this happening around Law Day and our free legal clinic especially.”

Normally, the mandate of the organization, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2018, is to serve low-income and marginalized individuals, mainly through one of 12 free legal clinics or telephone clinics that ProBono Law Saskatchewan operates in the province. With the Law Day phone clinic, however, people who wouldn’t normally qualify for service at those clinics are eligible to speak with one of the CBA volunteer lawyers.

“The main difference from our regular clinics and the CBA Law Day clinic is there is no income screening. This is available to any member of the public,” said Romanow.

ProBono Law Saskatchewan is pre-booking appointment times, so that on the days of the clinic, the volunteers will have full schedules. The appointments are for 30 minutes each. This year, there are 12 CBA volunteer lawyers who will handle four appointments each, for a total of 48 appointments.

If any of the organization’s normal clientele call for an appointment and aren’t able to receive one due because of a full schedule, they will be directed to one of the regular clinics or phone clinics. If marginalized or low-income clients do speak with a CBA volunteer during the Law Day clinic, and need more assistance than can be provided in the half-hour appointment, they can continue working with one of the regular ProBono Law Saskatchewan attorneys.

In 2017, ProBono Law Saskatchewan served over 1,200 clients through its free legal clinics. Its biggest clinic in Regina has four or five lawyers working every Saturday, but there are also smaller clinics, such as the one in La Ronge, where a lawyer calls in twice a month.

For those who don’t qualify to work with ProBono Law Saskatchewan but still need assistance beyond the phone clinic consultation, they will be given referrals for legal information sources, specifically the Public Legal Education Association (PLEA) which offers resources for individuals who are self-representing or directed to find private counsel.

Anybody who uses the phone clinic service on Law Day is made aware of what the consultation involves.

“We have a waiver that the lawyer will go over with the client. There are conflict checks done prior to the clinic. If you are conflicted out, we will book you into another appointment. The waiver goes over the fact there is confidential information, but the lawyer is not your lawyer going forward. They are only providing free legal advice within this half an hour and any relationship outside of that half an hour would have to be agreed to in writing,” said Romanow.

She added that “anything going forward is completely up to the lawyer and the client. Our service isn’t fishing for clients, but generally, if there is a rapport … if both parties are comfortable, we don’t want to get in the way of a solicitor-client relationship occurring.”

While the Law Day phone clinic is useful in spreading the word about the work ProBono Law Saskatchewan does, Romanow said there is “a greater need for even more services.”

She added: “A lot of clients wait four to six weeks for an appointment, but we are volunteer based. We have an office of five. We currently have three lawyers for the province, including myself. We can only take so much in-house. Statistically, Saskatchewan has one of the highest rates of volunteering by lawyers. We currently have over 350 volunteer lawyers signed up for us.”

She added that the role of ProBono Law Saskatchewan is to “fill that gap between legal aid and hiring a private counsel. So if you are eligible for legal aid, we won’t book you an appointment, you have to go through legal aid. If, for whatever reason, you are denied legal aid — for example, it’s an area of law they don’t cover, like anything civil, or you have a CPP income or you have a part-time job — then we’ll accept you.”

The ProBono Law Saskatchewan free phone clinic is just one event of many that are happening around the country. For a selection of more, see the links listed below.

The Canadian Bar Association’s various provincial branches have an assortment of events scheduled including student mock trials, citizenship courts, debates about legal issues, court tours and demonstrations of investigative techniques.

Alberta has events planned for Calgary, Edmonton, Fort MacMurray, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Red Deer and St. Paul. These include courthouse tours, mock trials, pro bono legal advice clinics, notary clinics and more.

Law Week in British Columbia will offer free public education law classes, and will see judges visiting classrooms throughout the entire month. On April 10, high school students had the opportunity to meet Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson of the B.C. Supreme Court, Chief Justice Robert J. Bauman of the B.C. Court of Appeal and Chief Judge Thomas Crabtree of the provincial court of B.C. and talk about what really matters to young people in the province.

The Nova Scotia branch of the CBA presents Law Day awards to honour, recognize an organization that foster greater public understanding of the Canadian justice system and the role of the Charter, encourage and promote access to justice, inform and educate the public about the courts, law enforcement agencies, the justice system and the legal profession and act as advocates on behalf of citizens in the Canadian justice system.

Local legal communities such as the County of Carleton Law Association (CCLA) are also holding events. The CCLA’s focus is on educating high school students about their fundamental rights and freedoms, the law and the Canadian legal system. It is presenting a mock trial exploring the traffic stops, carding, the upcoming marijuana laws and more.

The Kelowna Bar Association is holding its law day event on April 21 at the Kelowna Courthouse. The theme for this year’s event is reconciliation with First Nations. It will also provide information to those looking at a career in policing, the law, fire suppression or emergency services.

The Victoria Bar is holding its Law Week events on April 21 and will offer a free legal advice phone clinic, talks from judges, tours of holding cells and a mock trial competition.