LAO Newsroom



Lakehead University opens Ontario’s seventh Student Legal Aid Services Society

Monday, July 6, 2015

Low-income people living in either Thunder Bay or Fort William First Nation now have access to additional legal services as Lakehead University opens Ontario’s seventh Student Legal Aid Service Society (SLASS). Today, Lakehead Legal Services (LLS) opened its doors to clients.

“We look forward to this exciting opportunity to provide our students with a dynamic, hands-on learning experience, while at the same time providing a much needed service to the Thunder Bay and Fort William First Nation communities.”

— Kimberley Gagan, founding director of LLS

“Ever since the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law opened in September 2013, our students and faculty have wanted a SLASS,” says Kimberley Gagan, founding director of LLS. “We look forward to this exciting opportunity to provide our students with a dynamic, hands-on learning experience, while at the same time providing a much needed service to the Thunder Bay and Fort William First Nation communities.” LLS is the first student law clinic in Northern Ontario.

“SLASS are a win for everyone,” says Randall Ellsworth, Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) Vice President, North, Central and Eastern Regions. “Law students gain experience under the supervision of a lawyer, while our low-income clients benefit from the services provided.”

Support for the community’s marginalized people

LLS will serve low-income clients who meet LAO’s financial eligibility guidelines and are residents of the City of Thunder Bay or Fort William First Nation, depending on the nature and complexity of the legal issue. The initial services offered will be in the areas of minor criminal offences and Highway Traffic Act offences. As the clinic program expands, support for more areas of law will be offered.

Law students gain valuable experience

Four summer students started May 25 and are busily preparing to start serving clients in early July. The official opening will occur in September, once the students return to school. At that time, second and third-year law students can work at the clinic for academic course credits.

“Students who opt for this elective,” explains Kimberley, “will have several files assigned to them and will be required to deal with all aspects of the file from beginning to end. Under the direct supervision of review counsel, they will meet with prospective clients, attend court or tribunal appearances, conduct legal research, write opinion letters and negotiate outcomes.”

SLASS serve Legal Aid Ontario’s (LAO) low-income clients using volunteer law students, under the supervision of full-time lawyers, to provide legal advice and representation. LAO funds SLASS and with the addition of LLS, all seven Ontario law schools now operate a SLASS.

Questions:

Kimberley Gagan
Founding Director
Lakehead Legal Services
401 Red River Road, Thunder Bay, ON
Telephone: (807) 346-7815
Email: kgagan@lakeheadu.ca

Nancy Beal
Communications Advisor
Legal Aid Ontario
Telephone: (416) 979-2352 ext.5456
Email: bealn@lao.on.ca