by Nicholas Tsoi
The Greater Vancouver Law Students’ Legal Advice Society (GVLSLAS) is a non-profit organization incorporated in 1978 by students attending the Faculty of Law at the University of British Columbia. The GVLSLAS operates the Law Students’ Legal Advice Program (LSLAP), through which the law student volunteers provide free legal advice and assistance to low-income individuals and to members of other disadvantaged communities in the Greater Vancouver Regional District. LSLAP operations are funded via the generous support of the Law Foundation of British Columbia.
LSLAP’s primary goal is to offer free legal advice and representation to those who cannot afford it. LSLAP achieves this by both providing direct assistance to the client and educating the layperson in the use of the legal system.
LSLAP runs a number of legal advice clinics throughout the Greater Vancouver area. During the school year, the clinics take place in the evening, in order to fit with the students’ class schedules. In the summer, LSLAP hires approximately 25 students to run full-time clinics during regular business hours.
Students will meet with clients for an initial half-hour interview at one of LSLAP host sites to open a case file. Once this is done, the students will return to the campus to do research and to meet with one of the full-time staff lawyers. Brian Higgins is the program’s Supervising Lawyer and Joni Worton is the Family Law Supervising Lawyer. LSLAP also has two full-time administrative staff members to help with the file work.
LSLAP is currently in the middle of a three-year family law initiative funded by the Law Foundation of B.C. This has enabled us to provide legal advice and representation to clients in Provincial Court orders and uncontested divorce matters. LSLAP is making continued efforts to inform the general public of this program, but LSLAP believes that a long-standing belief still exists that LSLAP cannot help with family law matters. Therefore, LSLAP encourages lawyers to spread the word that LSLAP offers advice and representation in this area of law.
There are also limits to the types of services that LSLAP can offer. LSLAP cannot represent clients with land/property matters including those involving wills and estates. LSLAP also cannot advise or represent in immigration matters, an area of law that often involves clients who cannot afford a lawyer. Furthermore, LSLAP cannot represent clients with criminal charges if they have a prior criminal record, face an indictable offence, or if Crown Counsel is seeking jail time. Finally, LSLAP clinicians cannot appear before a Superior level court (unless it is an uncontested divorce matter). This means that LSLAP cannot represent clients with matters before the British Columbia Supreme Court or the Court of Appeal.
How Can CBA Members Help?
Our program relies on the students that make up the body of clinicians. LSLAP also depends on members of the Vancouver Bar to volunteer as supervising lawyers at the evening clinic sites. If you are interested in providing two hours of volunteer time, please contact LSLAP. It is a great opportunity for you to provide advice and direction to future lawyers.
Nicholas Tsoi, Executive Director 2007/2008, Law Students’ Legal Advice Program, UBC, E-mail: email@example.com, Website: www.lslap.bc.ca.
This article was published in the April 2008 issue of BarTalk. © 2008 The Canadian Bar Association. All rights reserved.