TORONTO – Ontario has a justice gap with more than 85% of everyday legal problems not getting resolved. Pro Bono Ontario’s new Legal Advice Hotline (1-855-255-7256) is here to help. It’s free, and a simple phone call connects people with experienced lawyers offering high-quality legal advice.
“PBO exists to address two indisputable facts: low- and middle-income Ontarians are desperate for legal help, and the legal profession wants to help,” says PBO’s Executive Director Lynn Burns. “The Free Legal Advice Hotline is the perfect way to respond to these realities. It is truly a giant leap forward on access to justice.”
Addressing Ontario’s well-documented access-to-justice crisis, PBO’s innovative new service fills a huge hole by combining legal advice with court form and document preparation to help people understand their options and take the right next steps.
For example, many Ontarians aren’t aware of even basic consumer protections they can use when dealing with pressure from door-to-door salespeople. The hotline has fielded many calls, particularly from seniors, who felt forced into signing contracts and didn’t know what to do. Volunteers can offer immediate solutions, including summary advice and drafting cooling-off letters.
State-of-the-art technology powers the hotline but its heart and soul are the volunteer lawyers who provide the advice.
“Often the people I speak with just don’t know where to start to address their legal problem”, says volunteer Connie Reeve. “It’s very rewarding to point them in the right direction and help them develop strategies to address their problems. Between the easy access for the public, the advanced but simple technology, and the support of PBO’s staff, I can’t think of a better way to give back.”
Any practising lawyer can help by volunteering as little as four days a year. The hotline covers a broad range of topics, so there’s a way to use every lawyer’s expertise and skills to give back to the community.
“Though it’s brand new, we are already seeing an outpouring of gratitude from the public and enthusiasm from the profession. Now it’s time to make it bigger and better,” says Burns in a call for more lawyers to volunteer their valuable skills and time.
In less than two months since its Sept. 11 soft launch, the hotline’s “just-in-time” service has helped more than 2,000 clients. Through technology and the commitment of volunteer lawyers, the Legal Advice Hotline is already providing direct assistance to more than 50 callers a day in the areas of:
• civil procedure;
• consumer law (debt, consumer protection);
• corporate law for start-ups, charities & non-profits;
• housing; and powers of attorney (property and personal care).
Three quarters of inquiries are resolved with just a single phone call. Those that can’t be quickly solved are referred for additional brief services or full representation.
A study conducted by PBO this past summer shows its court-based services save the provincial government about $5 million per year. For every dollar invested in PBO, there is a $10 return on investment!
The free Legal Advice Hotline will have an even bigger impact both economically and on the lives of Ontario residents.
The Legal Advice Hotline is currently in beta testing. It will officially launch on Nov. 27, 2017.