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Pro Bono Ontario honours volunteers for success of free legal advice hotline

Tuesday, September 11, 2018 @ 11:27 AM | By John Chunn

Pro Bono Ontario wants to honour the firms and individuals who have given their time to make the first year of its Free Legal Advice Hotline a success. Volunteers are key to the hotline that is open five days a week and which offers 30 minutes of free legal advice to low-income Ontarians.

On Sept. 11, Pro Bono Ontario presented awards in the following four categories:

Launched in September 2017, hundreds of volunteer lawyers have helped up to 80 hotline callers per day with just-in-time legal advice on everyday legal problems ranging from housing issues to job losses to consumer scams and business startup concerns.

“The hotline has surpassed all expectations,” said Pro Bono Ontaro executive director Lynn Burns. “We provided 14,000 callers with free legal advice in our first year. Given the public’s clear demand for accessible and timely assistance, it is no stretch to say that we will double that number in our second year. This is a groundbreaking delivery model that uses volunteers and state-of-the-art technology to provide meaningful access to justice for Ontarians wherever they live.”

These services are invaluable to vulnerable people whose barriers to justice include low-income, age, disability, geography, poor transit options and childcare obligations.

At the same time as helping thousands of Ontarians, practitioners from law firms and corporate legal departments have often come together to answer calls at the hotline. Pro Bono Ontario often organizes “sponsor weeks” that give them the opportunity to work together in a unique and collaborative environment to enhance their working relationships.

“The lawyers at Paliare Roland are proud to be long-time supporters of PBO's access-to-justice initiatives like the Free Legal Advice Hotline. Volunteering at the hotline gives us a chance to help those who have nowhere else to turn for advice as well as learn new things and expand our legal horizons,” said Robert Centa, Paliare Roland managing partner.

In-house counsel have given the hotline tremendous support, with departments putting together teams of volunteers to work the hotline.

“BMO proudly supports the access-to-justice initiatives of Pro Bono Ontario. We share their vision that no one should be denied legal assistance because of income level. Our lawyers truly value the chance to help people in their communities who really need it,” said Simon Fish, general counsel, BMO Financial Group.

For more information on the hotline, volunteering or donating to Pro Bono Ontario, visit