Access to Justice

National Self-Represented Litigants Project Report Now on CanLII

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By Melanie Hodges Neufeld, Director of Legal Resources

Our friends at CanLII recently announced that 22 reports from the National Self- Represented Litigants Project (NSRLP) are now available on CanLII. The NSRLP builds on the National Self-Represented Litigants Research study conducted by Dr. Julie Macfarlane from 2011-2013 and is committed to advancing understanding of the challenges and hard choices facing the very large number of Canadians who now come to court without counsel. The NSRLP regularly publishes resources designed specifically for SRLs, as well as research reports that examine the implications for the justice system. The reports include: 

To access the complete collection of reports, please visit the CanLII commentary site.

 

Canadian Association of Law Libraries Podcasts

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By Melanie Hodges Neufeld, Director of Legal Resources

The Canadian Association of Law Libraries (CALL) partnered with vLex for an exclusive podcast series in which Colin Lachance, interim General Manager of North America for vLex, carried out brief interviews with CALL / ACBD 2019 conference speakers, exhibitors, sponsors and organizers about their experience at the May 2019 conference, what’s hot in their world, and their thoughts on the future.  I was fortunate to be one of the interviewees, along with my partners Brea Lowenberger and Megan Smiley, to discuss our Trusted Intermediary – Legal Information Network (TI-LI). The title of our podcast is Access to Justice – role of information and libraries in addressing gaps. Other podcast topics include:

  • Emond Publishing – building long-form legal publishing products (Danann Hawes)
  • Innovating in products or human-centred design – where do we start in legal? (Kristin Hodgins and Daniel Hoadley)
  • De-constructing, analyzing and building the law as code (Jason Morris)
  • How legal domain is fundamental to advancement of AI – and how librarians are fundamental to that effort (Dr. Randy Goebel)

Please click here to listen to the podcasts.

 

Call to Action: Trusted Intermediary – Legal Information Network (TI-LI) at CALL Conference

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By Melanie Hodges Neufeld, Director of Legal Resources and Communications 

One thing I have discovered over the last few years is if you want to develop an innovative project, enlist librarians. I have had the privilege of working with extremely knowledgeable library staff at the Law Society and through the Saskatchewan Access to Legal Information Project (SALI). Librarians play a key role in access to legal information, as I recently highlighted in my post about the presentation I delivered at the University of North Texas Open Access Symposium 2019. They are trusted intermediaries that can help navigate the plethora of legal information for the public and direct them to reliable sources.

 I have also gained knowledge and experience from the BC LawMatters program and we recently began sharing our own experiences with a new emerging program in Ontario, the National Self Represented Litigants Project’s Family Law at the Library Project. Our three projects have realized that together we are stronger. That is, we can more efficiently create resources and training if we work together.

 At the Canadian Association of Law Libraries Conference (CALL) held May 27-29, 2019 in Edmonton, our three programs presented the following:

Part 1: The Role of Legal Information Providers and Public Libraries in Promoting Access to Justice: Exploring Opportunities and Challenges Presented by: Brea Lowenberger, CREATE Justice and  Melanie Hodges Neufeld, Law Society of Saskatchewan

In part 1 of this session, Melanie and Brea facilitated a macro discussion to set the stage for conversation about establishing a “National Trusted Intermediaries – Legal Information Network” (TI-LI Network). They drew on their experience in co-establishing the Saskatchewan Access to Legal Information (SALI) Project to share their observations on the need for a establishing a national network, and invited participants’ feedback on this emerging development.

Part 2: The Role of Legal Information Providers and Public Libraries in Promoting Access to Justice: Exploring Opportunities and Challenges Presented by: Dayna Cornwall, NSRLP and  Megan Smiley, LawMatters

In part 2 of this session, Dayna and Megan facilitated a micro discussion on lessons learned in establishing, like the SALI Project, library and legal information projects in Ontario and British Columbia. Dayna shared initial lessons learned in establishing the “Family Law at the Library”, a new project that involves partnering with libraries in the Windsor area, and Megan shared how Courthouse Libraries BC has worked since 2007 with public libraries to enhance public access to legal information in all communities throughout British Columbia. 

We issued a call to action to participants to create a national network of similar programs. The Trusted Intermediary – Legal Information Network (TI-LI) will facilitate knowledge and resource exchange, and provide an opportunity for new programs to learn from the experiences of more established programs.

 Pease contact me at melanie.hodgesneufeld@lawsociety.sk.ca if you have interest in joining the TI-LI Network and/or have any questions.

University of North Texas Open Access Symposium 2019

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By Melanie Hodges Neufeld, Director of Legal Resources and Communications 

The tenth annual University of North Texas (UNT) Open Access Symposium was held May 17-18 at UNT Dallas College of Law. The theme this year was “Is Open Access an Answer for Access to Justice?” and featured presentations and interactive sessions led by legal scholars and practitioners from Harvard, Duke, and UNT and representatives from our very own Saskatchewan Access to Legal Information project (SALI).

I was proud to present “The Role of Library Staff in Improving Access to Legal Information” with my SALI partners Brea Lowenberger, Access to Justice Coordinator and Director of CREATE Justice, University of Saskatchewan and Kim Hebig, Library Director, Wheatland Regional Library.

The Saskatchewan Access to Legal Information (SALI) partnership was formed to highlight the role of libraries as vehicles for access to legal information, and the role of library staff as intermediaries in the provision of legal information in their communities. SALI emerged in 2016 out of the Dean’s Forum on Access to Justice, a collaboration among Saskatchewan justice stakeholders based in the College of Law at the University of Saskatchewan. Dean’s Forum participants identified limited access to legal information as one of the barriers to full and equitable public participation in the justice system.

Since 2016, the SALI partnership has undertaken activities to meet the objective of improving access to legal information, specifically through engaging public library staff as mediators of resources to best serve their communities. SALI partners include representatives from the provincial Public Legal Education Association, Law Society libraries, University Library, College of Law, Ministries of Justice and Education, Pro Bono Law, and public libraries across Saskatchewan.

This presentation focused on the opportunities available and challenges faced in pursuing the goal of increasing public access to information in a jurisdiction with a small, widely-dispersed population, including a high proportion of Indigenous people and many newcomers to Canada. Topics included SALI activities such as a public engagement campaign; capacity-building opportunities for public librarians; a collections list; data collection and analysis projects; and writing projects that engage law students and faculty in increasing the amount of legal material produced with the public in mind.

We were pleased to share our experiences and learn from the other participants. Please see the UNT Open Access website for more information about the sessions and the Law Society website for more information about the SALI project.

SALI project partners
From L-R: Kim Hebig, Library Director, Wheatland Regional Library; Melanie Hodges Neufeld, Director of Legal Resources and Communications, Law Society of Saskatchewan; and Brea Lowenberger, Access to Justice Coordinator and Director of CREATE Justice, University of Saskatchewan.

Dean’s Forum on Dispute Resolution and Access to Justice

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By Melanie Hodges Neufeld, Director of Legal Resources and Communications 

The seventh meeting of the Dean’s Forum on Dispute Resolution and Access to Justice (the Dean’s Forum) was held on March 13, 2019. The Dean’s Forum is an initiative that engages justice community stakeholders in Saskatchewan, including the Law Society, in a dialogue about access to justice and the future of the justice system.

The associated Dean’s Forum course, unique to the College of Law, offers law students a rare experiential learning opportunity to contribute to justice policy alongside these stakeholders, who are leading members of the legal profession.

Students presented on and forum participants addressed two topics: “Diversity and Inclusion in the Legal Profession” and “Meeting Saskatchewan’s Justice Needs with Technology”.

  1. Diversity and Inclusion in the Legal Profession

Participants were divided into groups to engage in a breakout session focused on diversity and inclusion at private law firms in Saskatchewan The common themes that emerged from discussion included:

  • the role of education for law students and lawyers on themes including bias, leadership, and cultural competence;
  • that diversity and inclusion must be seen as core components of professionalism;
  • that leaders must create an environment in which people are safe and can flourish;
  • the importance of having support groups that are championed by the leadership of the organization;
  • that baseline data is necessary to estimate where the legal profession in Saskatchewan is headed; and
  • that celebrating positive steps taken by organizations and individuals is an important way to build momentum moving forward.

In response to these themes, the students created a syllabus on diversity and inclusion containing modules which could be extracted and incorporated into law courses, as well as educational sessions for lawyers. Here are the reports:

  1. Meeting Saskatchewan’s Justice Needs With Technology

This session was structured so that the Dean’s Forum attendees were part of a hypothetical ‘think tank’, tasked with ideating how to use technology to improve the legal empowerment of the public. The attendees were introduced to the ‘think tank’ by being asked to consider how to strengthen the public’s access to credible and centralized legal information online in a matter that would improve the public’s capacity to exercise their legal rights and responsibilities. The think tank was asked to identify any ‘pain points’ that a user might experience in trying to resolve their legal issue. Following this breakout session, the think tank once again broke out into groups to develop solutions or “ideate” surrounding these pain points. The below follow-up report outlines the important insights drawn from the discussions. The think tank found that it is in the public interest that the legal community embrace technology and in order for the legal community to do this effectively, the community needs to adopt a “start-up” mentality. This involves embracing the client-centred approach to creative problem solving and empathizing with the client. For more information, read these reports:

Congratulations to the Dean’s Forum for being this year’s recipient of the Provost’s Prize for Collaborative Teaching & Learning!

For more information, please visit the Dean’s Forum webpage.