Making sure that your content is accurate and useful
There is no point producing public legal education and information (PLE) unless it’s accurate, reliable and geared toward your target audience. Here are some tips about how to make sure the PLE you produce is accurate.
Work with legal reviewers
Giving information about the law can be tricky. Quite often figuring out the law means interpreting the law.
Make sure to include a legal expert on the project team – a lawyer, community legal worker or paralegal who has experience in the area of law you’re writing about.
If possible, it is very helpful if your legal expert or reviewer has practical, on-the-ground experience. That way, the expert can consider how laws and legal processes are applied in real-life situations. Academics who do not have direct experience with clients are usually not the best choice of writers for PLE aimed at giving practical advice.
Consider real-life situations
Ask your legal reviewers to consider how legal processes are applied in real-life situations. Make sure you explain to them who your audience is and the purpose of the information.
Practical realities may differ depending on where someone lives in the province and the barriers they face. For example, filing documents with a court or tribunal can be very different for someone living in a rural or remote community than for someone in a large urban centre. Make sure to tell your reviewers if your information is meant for a variety of communities across Ontario.
Check all the facts
If you’re including phone numbers, website addresses, benefit rates, or other changeable information, it’s important to double and triple-check this. Make sure you’re getting your information from the original source if possible.
Do one last check
Make sure to check your legal and practical content very close to the end of the process, just before you publish. The law can change at any time and so can website addresses, phone numbers or office locations.
Make sure you state which province the information relates to
Many laws vary from province to province. If the information you’re producing only applies to Ontario, say so. If it applies to all of Canada, that’s also worth including.
Put a date on it
Your PLE materials should include the date on which the legal expert reviewed the materials for accuracy. As well, you may want to include the date that a law took effect, if you think your readers need to know that.
Add a disclaimer
It is always a good practice to add a disclaimer to PLE materials that tells users that the materials are intended as legal information and that they should seek legal advice from a lawyer if they have a serious legal problem.
You can also download a PDF version of this information, a checklist about the information, or the whole module.