Free Legal Advice Hotline wins award for best pro bono program

VANCOUVER — Pro Bono Ontario’s Free Legal Advice Hotline received the 2018 National Pro Bono Program Award at a gala Oct. 4 at the National Pro Bono Conference.

This award recognizes a Canadian pro bono program that increases access to legal services for those who cannot afford them. It is based on excellence achieved in one or more of the following categories:

  • Addressing a gap in existing services or the unmet legal needs of a community
  • Using innovative strategies to increase access to justice
  • Enhancing private bar participation in pro bono activities Promoting collaboration between legal and community services providers.

“The Hotline represents the next generation of pro bono service and the next generation of accessible legal assistance for Ontarians who have nowhere else to turn,” says PBO Executive Director Lynn Burns. “It is our sincere hope that the recognition can be leveraged so that more Canadians can access justice.”

The Hotline was launched in September 2017 to provide just-in-time legal assistance to low-income Ontarians before their problems escalate and intensify. The service has already provided an important lifeline to almost 15,000 callers, many of whom experience barriers to justice such as income, age, disability, poor transit options, or childcare obligations.

Each day, up to 10 volunteer lawyers staff the Hotline and provide legal drafting assistance, summary advice, and follow-up in civil litigation; consumer debt and protection; employment law; housing; powers of attorney; and corporate law for low-income entrepreneurs and non-profits. Collectively, 800 lawyers from in-house departments and law firms of all sizes have already donated more than 3,400 hours to helping citizens get meaningful access to justice.

The Hotline is built on the Salesforce platform – a relatively simple-to use-system that integrates case management, a knowledge management database as well as automated document assembly tools.

“As lawyers, it’s is uniquely gratifying to provide legal services in this environment,” says the nomination letter from long-time PBO volunteers David Milosevic and Cameron Fiske of MilosevicFiske LLP. “We cannot think of an easier or more effective way to provide pro bono services.”

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