Module 1:

How to help your clients

Detecting legal issues

Sometimes requests for help from clients mask the existence of a legal issue. For example, a
client may ask for help finding a place to live. This is not a legal issue in itself, but if you ask for
more information – such as why they want to move – you may learn that there is an underlying
legal issue. Your client may disclose that:

  • their landlord threatened to evict them
  • they cannot afford to pay rent any more because their social assistance was cut off
  • they are worried that they won’t be able to pay rent in the future because they are at risk of losing their job or being laid off

It’s a good idea to ask questions that will help you determine if your client has a legal issue. This
will give you a sense of what the current situation is and whether there is a need for immediate

You can also download a PDF version of this information, a checklist about the information, or the whole module.

The diagrams below give examples of presenting issues (or, sample questions a
community worker might ask to screen for legal issues), and the area of law and specific legal
issue that might be revealed by a client’s answers.

Detecting legal issues: Housing law sample questions

Client’s Presenting Issue:

I need to move out of my apartment. What should I do?

Community Worker’s Question:

Why do you need to move out?

  • Answer
  • Area of law
  • Specific legal issue
  • My landlord gave me an eviction notice
  • Housing
  • Eviction procedure
  • My landlord told me that my same-sex partner can’t move in
  • Housing
    Human Rights
  • Tenants’ rights
  • My landlord refuses to deal with my mould problem
  • Housing
  • Repairs and maintenance
  • I can’t afford to pay my rent
  • Housing
    Employment/ work
    Income support
  • Eviction prevention
  • I gave notice but now can’t find another place
  • Housing
  • Moving out

Presenting Client’s Issue:

I’m being treated unfairly at work

  • Community Worker’s Questions
  • Area of law
  • Specific legal issue
  • Are you being asked to do unsafe work?
  • Employment and work
  • Workplace safety
  • Have you been injured at work?
  • Employment and work
  • Workers’ compensation
  • Are you worried you’re going to be fired or laid off?
  • Employment and work
  • Wrongful dismissal
  • Are you being asked to work overtime without pay?
  • Employment and work
  • Employment standards
  • Are you being discriminated against?
  • Employment and work
  • Human rights