Community legal clinics provide poverty law services to Ontario’s low-income communities. Clinics are independent, non-profit agencies, governed by community elected Boards of Directors. Boards are charged with the responsibility of determining the most pressing legal needs in their communities, and providing services to meet those needs.
Clinics provide services in areas of law that most affect low income individuals and disadvantaged communities. Often clinics assist people with meeting their most basic needs, such as a source of income, a roof over their heads, human rights, rights to education and health care, etc…
Clients of legal clinics are disproportionately those living with physical and mental disabilities, single mothers, recent immigrants, people of colour, the elderly, victims of abuse and torture and other historically disadvantaged groups. Clinics provide a welcoming and respectful environment for their clients by recognizing the challenges their clients face every day and working to improve clients’ access to clinic services and the legal system.
Clinics provide these services through a variety of methods, including traditional casework, summary advice, self help, public legal education, community development and law reform initiatives. Clinic work often involves trying to effect systemic change on behalf of the broader community.
Learn more about how clinics do their work
- Critical Characteristics of Community Legal Clinics
- Fundamentals of Community Legal Clinics
- Access to Justice: How Clinics contribute to both access and justice
- Other Reports about Community Legal Clinics
- Short History of Legal Aid in Ontario
There are 73 Community Legal Clinics in Ontario. Fifty-six of these serve specific geographic communities. Seventeen are “specialty clinics” in that the community they serve is not defined geographically. Examples of “specialty clinics” are: Advocacy Centre for the Elderly, Justice for Children and Youth, ARCH – A Legal Resource Centre for Persons with Disabilities, Injured Workers’ Community Legal Clinic, and Chinese &Southeast Asian Legal Clinic Further information about each clinic is available on their websites, which can be found on our Getting Legal Help page.
Legal clinics receive their core funding from Legal Aid Ontario. The relationship between clinics and LAO are governed by a funding agreement, comprising a Memorandum of Understanding, and a variety of policies including the LAO-Clinic Consultation Policy, and a Dispute Resolution Policy. The statutory basis for this relationship is established by the Legal Aid Services Act (LASA), 1998. LASA 2020 has been passed in Ontario updating this relationship, but has yet to be proclaimed.