Critical Characteristics of Community Legal Clinics

The community legal clinic system in Ontario is looked upon as the leading example of a poverty law service provider from an international perspective.

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Critical Characteristics of Clinics’ Success

The community legal clinic system in Ontario is internationally recognized as a leading example of the provision of poverty law services to members of low-income and marginalized communities. It has been frequently studied by international scholars and practitioners in the field and is often said to be the envy of those practising within the field, both across Canada and internationally. Executive Director Lenny Abramowicz presents some of the factors which have contributed to this success.

Download:  “Critical Characteristics of Community Legal Aid Clinics in Ontario”, by Lenny Abramowicz (PDF).

This article was published in the Journal of Law and Social Policy, vol. 19, Fall 2004; pp. 70 ff. It is reproduced here by permission of the author. It is intended for individual use to aid in research and education on the community legal clinic system and poverty law in Ontario, and to educate the wider public. The ACLCO asks that you not reproduce or transmit this document in whole or in part to any third party without the expressed written permission of the author ( The ACLCO wishes to thank the author for making this work available for use on this website.

Critical Characteristics of Community Legal Clinics in Ontario – a video presentation from Lenny Abramowicz, Executive Director

Fundamentals of the Clinic System

This is a video presentation of the 2018 Access to Justice week conversation with 3 clinic luminaries talking about the foundational principles upon which community legal clinics rest that continue to inform clinic work as we move into the future.

Access to Justice

As part of the 2019 Access to Justice week, the ACLCO interviewed leaders in the legal system about how clinics contribute to both access and justice.  You can watch these short videos here, along with some interviews with our clients as well.

Other Reports

A Report of the Ontario Legal Aid Review: a Blueprint for Publicly Funded Legal Services” (volume 1) 1997: Chapter 11 (The McCamus Report). Chapter 11, “‘Poverty Law’ Legal Aid Services” provides a useful overview and enduring evaluation of the community legal clinic system in Ontario can be (the abridged online version is reproduced here.) The McCamus Report is generally acknowledged to have served as the foundation of the Legal Aid Services Act (1998) and to have set the framework for the current community legal clinic system in Ontario. CHAPTER 11: “POVERTY LAW” LEGAL AID SERVICES

The Grange and Osler reports are key foundation documents for the clinic system.

Other Resources about the history of the clinic system and the community legal clinic model:

One of the foundational articles referenced by those in clinics is Stephen Wexler’s 1970 article in the Yale Law Journal, “Practising Law for Poor People” which provided advice to lawyers who wanted to “help poor people to help themselves.