Former Ontario chief justice Roy McMurtry released the “Geography of Civil Legal Services in Ontario” report today in Toronto. It is part of the Ontario Civil Legal Needs Project, an initiative of the Law Society of Upper Canada, Legal Aid Ontario, and Pro Bono Law Ontario.
“We now have access to hard data that can be used to identify the civil legal needs of Ontario’s low- and middle-income communities, as well as the distribution of legal service providers available to meet those needs. We have not had access to this type of data before,” McMurtry noted at the report’s release.
The geography report examines and compares the demographic characteristics of the Ontario population and the distribution of legal services, to create a detailed picture of the market for civil legal services across Ontario.
“Some of the larger, more rural areas appear underserviced at first glance but actually have a good number of lawyers and paralegals compared to the population. This is encouraging news since we may be able to use existing legal service providers to improve access to civil legal services,” says John McCamus, the chairman of Legal Aid Ontario.
The research also shows that almost half the lawyers in the province provide some pro bono or free legal services. “An unexpected, positive finding was the high per centage of lawyers - 46.7 per cent in 2009 - who provide some level of pro bono or free legal services,” says Osgoode Hall Law School dean Lorne Sossin. “While there are still questions about the nature of those services, we can use this information to further engage the profession in access to justice solutions.”
Read next week’s Law Times for more details and analysis of the report.