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Pro Bono Law Ontario wins prestigious American College of Trial Lawyers award

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

  • Organization: RELEASE: Pro Bono Law Ontario
  • Source: PBLO > Pro Bono Law Ontario

The American College of Trial Lawyers has chosen Pro Bono Law Ontario as the recipient of the prestigious Emil Gumpert Award. This is especially significant since it is the first time the award has been won by a Canadian organization or individual.
The award recognizes programs, public or private, whose principal purpose is to maintain and improve the administration of justice.
Pro Bono Law Ontario will use the monetary part of the award - valued at $50,000 USD - to open a new walk-in, legal help centre in Ottawa--modelled on the successful "Law Help Ontario" centre operating out of the Superior Court of Justice in Toronto. Law Help Ontario is a project of Pro Bono Law Ontario that provides pro bono legal services to people who cannot afford to hire a lawyer and are unrepresented in a legal matter.
In a letter to Pro Bono Law Ontario, the Chair of the Emil Gumpert Committee said, "The Board of Regents of the American College of Trial Lawyers was impressed with your goals and progress, and unanimously approved the recommendation. Your goal of creating, nurturing and guiding organized pro bono efforts in Ontario will encourage and extend the pro bono services of Canadian lawyers beyond the jurisdiction of 'Law Help Ontario.' We believe your program is truly unique and has the potential for national impact."
Lynn Burns, the Executive Director of Pro Bono Law Ontario, says the award is a fitting tribute to the many lawyers who have volunteered their time and expertise over the first year of operation of Law Help Ontario. "Thanks to their dedication, almost 3,000 individuals received help with their legal needs in 2008. Now that we can expand this much-needed service to Ottawa, the result will be that many more Ontarians will have professional guidance and support in dealing with the justice system."
The American College of Trial Lawyers will present the award to Pro Bono Law Ontario in Ottawa in July, which will coincide with the official launch of the centre.


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BACKGROUNDER

Pro Bono Law Ontario (PBLO) is a charitable organization that promotes access to justice in Ontario by creating and promoting opportunities for lawyers to provide pro bono (free) legal services to persons of limited means. The Law Help Ontario office at 393 University Avenue in Toronto - the same building which houses the Superior Court of Justice -- has been open since December 2007. The volunteer lawyers and Law Help staff provide a full range of brief legal services to assist unrepresented litigants and address the key challenges they face when they decide to go to court, such as:
• Not understanding court rules and procedures
• Not being able to properly complete court forms
• Not understanding their legal rights and available remedies
• Not being able to research or apply case law
• Not being able to interpret or apply applicable legislation

The Law Help Centre is not designed to replace services of lawyers retained to provide full representation. Rather it operates as a walk-in centre that assists low-income, unrepresented litigants who are considering litigation, defending or bringing an action, or trying to enforce a court order for civil (non-family) matters. The Law Help Centre only assists clients that cannot afford to hire a lawyer and do not qualify for legal aid. Litigants can come back to the walk-in centre as many times as needed.

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