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McGuinty Government Challenges Legal Profession To Improve Access To Justice

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McGuinty Government Challenges Legal Profession To Improve Access To Justice

Attorney General will establish pro bono task force

Ministry of the Attorney General

TORONTO -- The McGuinty government has issued a challenge to the legal profession to provide more pro bono services and will look for ways government lawyers can do the same, Attorney General Michael Bryant has announced.

"Every lawyer and every law firm in this province needs to step up to the plate to help ensure all Ontarians have access to justice," said Bryant.

"The government intends to lead by example and help bring real, positive change by creating a shift towards a pro bono culture."

The Ministry of the Attorney General will establish a pro bono task force, comprised of officials from the ministry and Pro Bono Law Ontario, to look for innovative ways that Ontario's over 1,400 Crown lawyers can perform pro bono services. The ministry will work with the associations representing Crown lawyers. Services could include public legal education to minority communities, support for high school law programs or services to charitable organizations.

The term pro bono comes from the Latin phrase pro bono publico. For lawyers, typically it means representing someone who cannot afford legal representation, free of charge.

Bryant is calling on law firms to facilitate pro bono work by:

  • recognizing pro bono work as billable work;
  • setting an annual target of five per cent of their billable hours to be devoted to pro bono work; and
  • sending lawyers on secondment to legal aid clinics.

"There is a large segment of the population that are too poor to hire a lawyer but not poor enough for legal aid. Pro bono legal services can help build strong communities by filling that gap, but I want to make it clear that pro bono activity should complement, not replace legal aid," said Bryant.

"The government is willing to do its part by empowering government lawyers to do pro bono work consistent with their obligations to the Crown, but we also need the legal profession to rise to the occasion."

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