Access Pro Bono will be hosting its seventh annual Pro Bono Going Public event throughout BC this September. The event is an outdoor legal ‘advice-a-thon’ and fundraiser for BC’s pro bono programs. Volunteer lawyers will provide free legal guidance to low- or moderate- income individuals.

The open-air legal clinic will be held in Kelowna on September 16th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at City Park, near the entrance along Abbott Street. The Kamloops clinic will be held September 17th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Riverside Park, off Lorne Street West and 1st Avenue, east of the Rotary Bandshell.

During the advice-a-thon, Attendees will be matched with a lawyer based on their legal issue and the lawyer’s practice area. The volunteer lawyers registered for the event have diverse legal experiences and will address a wide range of legal issues.

The one-time legal guidance appointments will be held at outdoor booths. Individuals interested in scheduling an appointment at the event should contact Access Pro Bono at 1-877-762-6664 to find out if they qualify.

Participants from past years expressed that the experience eased some of their concerns. They also appreciated the accessible and casual setting of the meetings.

Although the legal guidance offered at the Pro Bono Going Public event is limited to the one-time meeting, other services exist year round to assist individuals unable to afford a lawyer.

Access Pro Bono’s Summary Legal Advice Program provides up to 30 minutes of free legal advice to those who qualify. The BC Branch of the Canadian Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service offers a similar consultation service for $25.

Many brochures, guidebooks, and summaries are tailored for individuals without legal education.

The BC Branch of the Canadian Bar Association has prepared written and audio summaries of the law through the Dial-A-Law program. The summaries provide detailed and user-friendly information covering a wide range of legal topics, such as family law, wills and estates, Small Claims Court, housing, criminal law, and employment and social benefits.

The Dial-A-Law summaries are available by telephone request at 1-800-565-5297 or online. The written versions are available in English, Chinese, and Punjabi, and the audio versions are available in English and Chinese.

The Courts of British Columbia website also provides online guidebooks and information packages explaining court processes and how to prepare for court.

Legal aid may be an option for low-income individuals seeking representation in family, child protection, and criminal matters, as well as some immigration, mental health, and prison law issues. Legal aid is administered by the Legal Services Society and funded by the BC government. The program arranges and pays for a lawyer to represent qualifying individual.

Duty counsel, also administered by the Legal Services Society, is a free lawyer located at the courthouse. Duty counsel may be available to advise on certain issues and speak in court on behalf of individuals in simple matters. This lawyer will not take on the whole case or provide representation at trial. Duty counsel is available in Kelowna to assist with family and criminal matters.

Unfortunately a number of other services are limited to the Vancouver area, such as duty counsel for civil matters and a drop-in information centre about the court system and procedures.

Although a variety of resources are available for individuals unable to afford a lawyer, access to justice is still a pressing issue – emphasized last year at the CBA Legal Conference in Saskatoon, and experienced firsthand on a daily basis by many individuals, even with moderate incomes.

Visit Access Pro Bono for more information about the advice-a-thon and other information.

The information provided above is for educational purposes only. This information is not intended to replace the advice of a lawyer or address specific situations. Your personal situation should be discussed with a lawyer. If you have any questions or concerns, contact a legal professional.

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