General Course Description
This clinical experiential course will serve as a bridge between the academic study of law and the practice of law. Connecting academic study with community service through structured reflection contributes to learning that is deeper, longer lasting and can be generalized to new situations and contexts. Working with the Legal Help Centre (LHC) involves cooperative experiences, and addresses complex problems in complex settings. Students are required to engage in problem solving by drawing on the substantive knowledge they have acquired over the course of their law studies. Students will also come to appreciate that a lawyer’s involvement with the broader community is less about “answering the legal question” than it is about collaborating with others whose resources, skill sets and perspectives are complementary, to better understand and resolve challenges facing our clients and our communities. LHC brings practicing lawyers together with students in a variety of disciplines- law, social work, criminal justice, conflict resolution, and community development studies.
Specifics of the course duties
The LHC is a storefront legal office located over the Staples on the second floor of Portage Place. It is open Monday – Friday from 9 am – 5 pm but it is only open for drop in clients from 1 pm – 5 pm on Tuesdays and Fridays and for family clients by appointment only Monday and Wednesday mornings.
You may choose to be either a Fall Intern from Sept to Dec or a Winter Intern from Jan to Apr. During your term you will choose to be one of: a Tuesday or a Friday drop in intern or a family law intern for: Monday morning family clinic, Tuesday morning family duty counsel (in court) or Wednesday morning family clinic. Following is the schedule for the internship placements for 2016-2017:
Mondays, 8:30 – 1 pm Family Law Clinic (includes monthly Outreach Clinic)
Tuesdays, 8:30 – 1 pm Family Law Court
Tuesdays, 12:30 – 5 pm Drop-in Clinic
Wednesdays, 8:30 – 1 pm Family Law Clinic (includes monthly Outreach Clinic)
Fridays, 12:30 – 5 pm Drop-in Clinic
Interns are expected to arrive promptly at the start time set out above. A briefing takes place at that time for the day. All your work is supervised by Natasha Brown along with Seneca Longclaws/or the volunteer lawyers.
As an intern, you will work at the Legal Help Centre on your day once every week from the start of term to the end of term.
a) Client work
You will directly interview clients in the clinic, diagnose the legal issues, do research and give legal information to the client and maintain the legal file for that client. Family duty counsel (Tuesday mornings) will involve advising and speaking for unrepresented litigants in family motions court. Family clinic (Monday or Wednesday mornings) will also involve help drafting family court documents. All work on the file must be done in the clinic.
The problems that clients bring to the LHC are wide-ranging; custody of children, child support variations, estate work, contract disputes, wrongful dismissal, collections are some of the most common issues. You will have an opportunity to apply your legal education to real live client problems and be expected to work in a professional matter to assist the client as much as you can within the LHC mandate.
b) Legal Memo and Opinion Letter
At some point near the beginning of the term, with input from Natasha Brown along with Seneca Longclaaws and/or your Faculty Advisor, you will also choose a file that requires additional legal research and prepare a legal memo and opinion letter on that file, on which you will receive feedback. Depending on availability, you will also meet with the client to present your advice.
c) Reflective Learning Journals
Each intern must submit three reflective journal entries on assigned questions and one lengthier reflection paper.
The student must conduct him/herself according to the highest standards of the profession as set out in the Code of Professional Conduct in performing the duties set out above.
There is a mandatory attendance policy. Only severe illness or a death in the immediate family will excuse you from attending at the clinic at your assigned times. Documentary substantiation may be required. Absence otherwise earns a failing grade. Please choose your other courses to avoid conflicts.
Students must apply for this internship and will be chosen on the basis of strong academic performance, their related course work, career plans, related experience and reference letter. Please indicate whether you choose Fall or Winter term and the placement type in on your application.
The course aims to:
· develop your understanding of the complex context within which legal problems arise, the inter relationship between social, economic and legal issues, and how substantive legal knowledge can be applied to live client problems;
· enhance your understanding of the obligations of professionalism as they arise in a practical context;
· enable you to identify key issues in a particular area of law, and to analyze those issues with attention to complex social and legal forces;
· provide you with an opportunity to enhance your communication skills – oral, written and listening;
· support your ability to fairly and candidly deal with clients and manage their expectations;
· challenge you to think critically about the role your legal education has played in the preparing for your legal career as well as about your own career development; and increase your self-awareness/appraisal, ability to work effectively with others and your leadership skills.
· Develop your legal research and writing skills in a “real world” context.
This is a 3 credit course and academic credit is awarded on a Pass/Fail basis. The elements relevant to the assessment include the intern’s professional performance of:
· punctual attendance,
· all client duties,
· all reflective journal entries,
· the completion of the legal memo and opinion letter; and
The Faculty Advisor is responsible for the evaluation of the student. The evaluation in this course is intended to be formative, in that it serves to promote student learning, rather than summative which aims to rank students relative to each other.
About the organization
The mandate of the Legal Help Centre is to assist disadvantaged members of the community (all persons earning under $50,000 annual income who do not qualify for Legal Aid) understand and access legal and social rights. LHC offers a socio – legal approach to problem solving, recognizing that there are often many layers beneath the surface of a legal problem. In addition to providing appropriate community referrals and legal information, LHC offers workshops for people who are representing themselves, and when resources permit it offers representation by law students working under the supervision of LHC’s staff lawyer or another approved volunteer lawyer.
Instructor: Natasha Brown (Director, Lawyer-Supervisor) – Seneca Longclaws (Lawyer Supervisor)