B.C. lawyers to provide free legal services
More than a hundred lawyers are ready to set up shop in downtown Vancouver and New Westminster as part of an outdoor legal clinic for low-income residents.
The Pro Bono Going Public 2012 event will take place in Vancouver’s Victory Square on Friday (September 7) and New Westminster’s Hyack Square on Tuesday (September 11).
Jamie Maclaren, executive director of the Access Pro Bono Society of B.C., said the event is designed primarily to provide free legal services to people who need them, but also to generate awareness about and funds for pro bono programs. According to Maclaren, the legal-aid system in B.C. has been “cut to the bone”.
“We use this to raise awareness around the access-to-justice issue and the fact that the government is seemingly unwilling to fund legal aid to the extent that it should…and that the responsibility of advising and helping and representing very marginalized people who are contending with legal issues is left to lawyers who volunteer on a charitable basis to assist them,” Maclaren told the Georgia Straight by phone.
About 800 lawyers in B.C. currently provide free services through the society, Maclaren noted. He added that although his organization supports the justice reforms being eyed by the B.C. government, he would also like to see a reinvestment in legal aid.
“We think that you have to provide incentives for lawyers to do legal-aid work, and if you’re not willing to pay them a decent rate, then they’re simply not going to do it, and so that responsibility then falls to pro bono lawyers,” he said.
The pro bono event last year drew about 150 people to Victory Square. While the most common types of legal problems people sought advice on were family-law issues such as custody and child support, they also asked for help with landlord and tenancy issues including evictions.
Lawyers will be in Victory Square on September 7 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and in Hyack Square on September 11 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Clinics will also take place this month in Kelowna and Victoria.