«Karen Cohl and George Thomson December 2008 Connecting Across Language and Distance: Linguistic and Rural Access to Legal Information and Services ...»
Partnership and coordinated planning Multiple points of entry would lead to ready access to a coherent, planned system through which people can obtain legal information and services.
Legal and non-legal organizations that serve as points of entry or provide legal information, advice, and services would collaborate to coordinate and customize processes and establish innovative solutions to linguistic and rural access to justice.
They would support one another in serving clients who have legal problems.
What would a coordinated system look like?
Justice is not access to information. It’s the resolution you gain through using the information. KINGSTON CONSULTATION The following steps outline what people with legal problems would experience in the course of obtaining information and services in a coordinated system and how the system would work to
support them at each stage:
Legal advice and representation (From legal clinic, certificate, staff or advice lawyer, duty counsel, pro bono lawyer, paralegal, or law student)
Role of The Law Foundation of Ontario A coherent, understandable system that meets linguistic and rural access to justice needs in a planned way and makes best use of available and emerging resources depends on a strong partnership of effort. Many organizations have an interest in promoting access to justice, and a coordinated system would have to encompass their expertise and strengths.
Our recommendations envisage roles for the Foundation in keeping with its mandate as a
catalyst for improving access to justice:
1. Support efforts to build key components of the system The Foundation can help to ensure progress in building key components of the system.
Examples include enhancing the capacity of community organizations as front-line providers of legal information, improving access to qualified interpreters, testing technology solutions for linguistic and rural access, and increasing the capacity of legal organizations to provide service to clients from rural or remote areas and to persons who do not speak an official language. By funding strategic projects in these areas, and ensuring that they include thorough evaluation, the Foundation would make a significant contribution to overcoming the barriers identified in this report.
2. Support comprehensive planning and collaboration The Foundation could help ensure a planned and collaborative effort by helping to bring together legal and non-legal partners to work on the design, implementation, and evaluation of solutions. In funding the components described above, the Foundation would ensure a planned approach to building the system. The Foundation could also fund a comprehensive initiative that tests the implementation of multiple components of the system in one or more geographic regions.
3. Encourage partnerships We suggest, as a basic principle, that a partnership of effort be a required element for obtaining Foundation support for linguistic and rural access to justice initiatives. Applicants for funding should demonstrate that they have considered how those who should be partners in the initiative would be involved in its implementation. Instead of creating an entity or assigning one organization to lead or manage the overall initiative, the preferred approach would be to create consortiums and advisory groups for each major project, with funded staff support when necessary.
4. Develop funding protocols and facilitate implementation In addition to encouraging partnerships in the specific ways mentioned above, the Foundation could contribute to creating an integrated system by developing consistent protocols for approving funding applications related to linguistic and rural access to justice. We recommend that the Foundation retain a dedicated implementation coordinator to develop implementation strategies, help projects get started, maintain linkages among them, share information, ensure that projects are formally evaluated, and keep the trustees informed of progress on the overall initiative.
Chapter 7: Recommendations Summary of recommendations We recommend six initiatives for the Law Foundation to fund and support as strategic
investments in linguistic and rural access to justice:
1. Building Community Capacity Form a consortium to improve the capacity of non-legal community organizations to provide basic legal information and referral to their clients. Strategies could include training and real-time legal help for front-line workers and access to public legal education materials in a variety of languages and formats.
2. Regional Planning Model
Select one or more geographic areas to form a consortium to develop, test, and evaluate a coordinated approach for enhancing linguistic and rural access to legal information and services in that region. Strategies could include joint outreach and needs assessment, common protocols and tools, technology pilots, shared resources for service delivery, and joint training.
3. Ontario Legal Interpretation Network Assist in the creation of a legal interpretation network to develop strategies to improve language and sign language interpretation in legal settings. Strategies could include improved access to interpreters, quality assurance and building a community of practice.
4. Videoconferencing Pilot Projects Conduct pilot projects to increase linguistic and rural access to legal information and services through videoconferencing. Strategies could include using video to train frontline workers, provide access to language and sign language interpreters in legal settings, and connect low-income clients with legal service providers.
5. Articling Fellowships Create new articling fellowships to enhance the capacity of organizations providing legal services to low-income or vulnerable persons isolated by language or distance.
Some positions would be for bilingual students, including internationally trained lawyers, who can provide legal services to clients in their first language. The others would be for organizations providing legal services to clients in rural or remote areas.
6. Learning from the Experience Evaluate the strategies implemented under the above five initiatives, individually and as a whole, develop a framework for evaluating access to justice programs and policies, and establish an online clearinghouse for information related to linguistic and rural access to justice.
We also make several complementary proposals for governments and leading legal bodies, such as Legal Aid Ontario, the Law Society of Upper Canada, and Pro Bono Law Ontario.
Detailed recommendations This section describes each of the six initiatives in more detail and outlines how they could be implemented.
Recommendation 1: Building Community Capacity Purpose Building community capacity would improve the ability of non-legal, community organizations to identify legal issues and to provide basic legal information and referral for their clients.
Rationale Non-legal organizations often work with clients whose problems include a legal component.
Organizations (such as settlement agencies, health services, community centres, disability organizations, and information and referral services) are usually the first point of contact for people who are vulnerable or marginalized and need legal assistance. They serve as trusted and accessible intermediaries between their clients and a complex legal system that, for many people who are vulnerable, is otherwise impenetrable. Since community organizations often build relationships with their clients over time, they can be effective advocates for clients navigating the legal system and can follow up when they refer clients to other services.
Many community organizations already use the public legal education and information materials available through a variety of sources. Some may also have access to legal training or advice through legal clinics, pro bono lawyers, or online programs. Most organizations, however, are stretched thin and have limited ability to meet their clients’ needs for legal information, particularly in diverse languages and in accessible formats.
Enhancing the capacity of these organizations would support them in reaching out to people who may have urgent legal needs but who are unaware that help is available. They would also be able to assist up to the point of providing clients with a basic understanding of their legal issues and making appropriate referrals.
Partnerships between legal and non-legal, community organizations are critical to meeting the legal needs of people who do not speak English or French, those who live in rural or remote communities, or those who are isolated by both language and distance. Such partnerships are mutually beneficial. They allow legal service providers and community organizations to share and combine their areas of expertise.
Description We recommend three key components for this initiative: access to legal information and referral training, real-time help, and public legal education and information materials. It is likely that these components would evolve, and additional priorities and activities would emerge as the partners involved give shape to the initiative.
1. Legal information and referral training Access to training would be enhanced for front-line workers, telephone information and referral providers, and others in community organizations. Training would cover important topics that
would help these workers provide effective service to clients with legal problems:
• Understanding key legal issues relevant to their clients
• Identifying the legal components of clients’ problems
• Understanding the limits of the legal assistance a non-lawyer can provide; for example, the line between providing information and providing advice
• Awareness of the range of information and referral services that currently exist and what they can offer, particularly in terms of language accommodation and accessibility for people with disabilities
• Making appropriate referrals to legal services.
We suggest the following activities as components of enhancing access to training:
• Assess priority training needs in consultation with community organizations and set goals for training
• Determine what kinds of training materials and opportunities already exist in order to build on good practices, avoid duplication, and identify gaps
• Develop and test tools for legal professionals to aid them in providing training, as well as tools to help community organizations conduct their own basic training for staff and volunteers
• Develop and test options for delivering training (on line, by videoconference, in person)
• Build partnerships with educators and educational institutions to develop and offer training.
2. Real-time help Front-line workers in community organizations would be able to get real-time help (help available at the time it is needed) from lawyers, paralegals, or community legal workers, particularly when they are serving clients in crisis. Through interactive websites and hotlines, sufficiently resourced and staffed, and coordinated or linked, community organizations would not have to sort through multiple information sources to find the assistance they need.
We suggest the following activities as components of providing real-time help:
• Create, enhance, and coordinate telephone hotlines and interactive websites so that front-line workers can get immediate assistance from legal professionals
• Establish a directory of clinic and pro bono lawyers, by area of expertise and languages spoken, whom community organizations can contact for information or summary advice
• Connect community organizations with legal partners who can offer information and summary advice sessions to client groups directly on areas of greatest need, and in the clients’ first languages where possible
• Develop strategies to build relationships between community organizations and local legal service providers to increase awareness of the needs of vulnerable people among legal professionals and help community organizations identify additional sources of realtime legal help.
3. Public legal education and information materials Increasing the availability and coordination of public legal education and information materials in priority languages and in a variety of formats, including accessible formats for people with disabilities, would enhance the capacity of community organizations to provide legal information and referral.
We suggest the following activities as components of improving the accessibility of public legal
information and materials:
• Assess the range of materials available in languages other than English or French and in alternative formats to identify gaps
• Translate or create new materials on selected topics in priority languages and formats to meet the most pressing needs
• Develop for community organizations a best practices guide on translating materials, which would include topics such as identifying priority languages and legal topics, translation processes, and testing of materials
• Provide translation and plain language workshops and advice to organizations producing their own materials on legal topics.
1. Form a consortium We recommend that the Law Foundation hire an Access to Justice Implementation Coordinator to support all six of these initiatives. In the case of Building Community Capacity, the implementation coordinator would support the formation of a consortium of legal and non-legal organizations to lead the development of the initiative.
We suggest that, to get the process started, the implementation coordinator convene a facilitated meeting for organizations to provide advice on establishing the consortium. Types of
organizations would include the following: