Librarians, lawyers and justice

Guest author Michele Leering, Executive Director of CALC

Guest author Michele Leering, Executive Director of CALC

In a recent blog post, I wrote about an access to justice outreach project that our community legal clinic started with local courthouse and public libraries several years ago. Our intention was to help enhance the capacity of library staff to red-flag legal issues in non-traditional legal areas (for example, housing and income security). We also wanted to help improve the pathways for “access to justice” so that staff could provide effective referrals for free legal help, and to direct patrons to accurate and credible legal information resources.

I am delighted to report that our clinic – in partnership with CLEO, the Rural & Remote Boldness Access to Justice project and The Action Group on Access to Justice – is hoping to inspire new links between clinics and the library sector to improve access to justice in Ontario’s rural and remote communities. We’ve organized a “justice innovation event” for clinics, Legal Aid Ontario and interested libraries – the event will take place in Toronto on October 29, 2015.

At this event, we hope to bring together possible future partners from across Ontario who work in community legal clinics, public libraries, courthouse libraries, LibraryCo and law school libraries, and Legal Aid Ontario. We’ll learn about other library and justice partnerships in Ontario, British Columbia, Australia, and the U.S., and brainstorm about ways that justice partners and library staff can work together to improve access to justice and make sure that people get the legal information they need – when they need it.


If you work in a community legal clinic or library and are interested in participating in this initiative to support access to justice causes in rural and remote areas, please register for the event here.

We’ve also created a Libraries & Justice Partnerships page right here on the PLE Learning Exchange – watch this space for more information! And, in a few weeks, I’ll tell you more about the lessons we learned in our earlier project.

Michele Leering is a lawyer and works as Executive Director with the Community Advocacy & Legal Centre in Belleville, Ontario. She also holds a Master's degree in Adult Education, and is currently a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Law at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Her present studies focus on issues connected to access to justice and legal professionalism. In addition to the traditional practice of poverty law, Michele has engaged in community development and law reform work, including organizing injured workers, and instigating participatory action research projects into local hunger/poverty, homelessness, and access to justice.  She has worked on diverse public legal education projects including developing a comprehensive guide to living on a low income, referral and resource guides, and “legal health checklist” approaches that reflect her passion for encouraging legal literacy/capability approaches and holistic legal aid service delivery. She is currently working on an article about the crucial role that “trusted intermediaries” play in increasing access to justice.

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