Virtual legal clinic: Video conferencing for justice

Luke’s Place is establishing a virtual legal clinic for women who have left abusive relationships and are involved with family court. Using web-based video conferencing, the clinic will connect women in rural and remote areas to family law lawyers elsewhere.

In low population areas, many women who have experienced violence cannot access legal representation in their communities. Our free virtual clinic provides women with 1 hour of:

  • summary family law advice
  • assistance with the preparation of court documents, and
  • information and practical suggestions about how to manage a case and prepare for court and court-related appearances.

Before initiating this pilot project, Luke’s Place undertook research into online legal service delivery. Our Virtual Legal Clinic report looks at similar projects in other jurisdictions and examines the opportunities and risks of using web-based technology.

We have partnered with a number of community-based violence against women organizations in north eastern Ontario. They play a key role by hosting consultations. Their support workers will also:

  • help a woman prepare for her legal consultation
  • accompany her during the consultation to take notes and provide prompts, and
  • support the woman in planning next steps after the consultation is over.

Luke’s Place is working with these agencies to develop procedural support and staff training.

Lawyers in the virtual legal clinic are also trained by Luke’s Place through an online course developed in collaboration with the Barbra Schlifer Clinic. This training is accredited for substantive CPD hours and explores the issue of violence against women and its relationship with family law. Interested lawyers should contact Paula Wansbrough, Project Coordinator, at projectco@lukesplace.ca.

It is our hope that this pilot project will prove to be an effective model that can be expanded to other parts of the province.

Luke’s Place would like to thank the Law Foundation of Ontario and the Trillium Foundation for their support of this initiative. The Ontario Trillium Foundation is an agency of the Government of Ontario. While financially supported by these foundations, Luke’s Place is solely responsible for material related to this project.

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