LAO helps Durham College paralegals support local low-income clients
Posted on: Thursday, January 24, 2013
Durham-Frontenac Region – Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is helping equip Durham College’s paralegal students with the skills to work at three local legal aid clinics.
With LAO’s support, a lawyer who specializes in poverty law has trained Durham College’s paralegal students in what they need to know to work in a legal clinic.
Once trained, the students work in the Northumberland County Legal Clinic, the Durham Community Legal Clinic and/or at Durham College’s campus paralegal student assistance office, supervised by the lawyer-instructor or a clinic staff lawyer.
“Paralegals, like lawyers, are able to deliver the full range of services to clients within their scope of practice,” said Randall Ellsworth, Vice President of LAO’s Northern Region and Central & Eastern region.
“LAO chose to support this initiative because we believe collaboration and supporting the appropriate use of different kinds of service providers such as paralegals will help us work more effectively to support access to justice for low-income Ontarians and disadvantaged communities.”
Paralegals at work in the community
Each clinic enjoys support from Durham College paralegals for two days every week. Two students work in each clinic for the fall semester, another two arrive for the spring semester, and one arrives for the summer.
Since the project’s inception in March 2012, 10 paralegal students and two summer students have participated.
Over its first 16 weeks, they helped 349 clients – filling in paperwork, taking on cases and providing representation and summary legal advice.
They also assist the clinics – through legal research, development of public legal education materials and more.
Along the way, they gain valuable exposure to clients and learn about the importance of clinic work as well as poverty-related legal needs.
Benefits for all
“This program benefits everyone involved,” said Lois Cromarty, executive director of Northumberland County Legal Clinic, who developed this initiative with Stephanie Ball, dean of the School of Justice & Emergency Services and Deborah Hastings, executive director of the Durham Community Legal Clinic.
“Students in Durham College’s paralegal program gain some or all of the 120 hours of experience they need to earn their degree and their license from the Law Society,” explained Cromarty. “We benefit because they come to us, year-round, up-to-speed and ready to support our staff lawyers. And of course the many low-income people who live in this large geographic area benefit from the enhanced service we can provide them.”