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Pro Bono Stories

Our partnership with PBO

Access to justice is essential for all, and Blakes is keen to advocate for those who may not otherwise be able to access expert legal advice.

Anna Abbott, Partner

Pro Bono Ontario: Free Legal Advice Hotline

Seeking legal help is something nearly all of us will need to do at some point in our lives. However, where to start and who to call can be confusing and overwhelming. Additionally, for many, there are barriers to accessing legal assistance. Pro Bono Ontario (PBO) seeks to serve low income and vulnerable individuals who need help with everyday legal problems. PBO connects volunteer lawyers with individuals and charities who cannot afford legal services, including everyday civil law (non-family) matters through the Free Legal Advice Hotline. The Hotline provides individuals and charities with up to 30 minutes of free legal advice and assistance with a matter that would not be covered by Legal Aid Ontario. 

Blakes has volunteered with PBO projects for many years and has provided services through the Hotline since its inception.

PBO is invested in ensuring clients have a seamless experience. “The Hotline is an excellent program, especially regarding efficiency and continuity of service for clients” says Blakes lawyer, Anna Abbott, Partner in the Blakes Employment & Labour Group. Anna has volunteered with PBO since she was a summer student. She explains that the Hotline sets itself apart by having an accessible intake system, so clients are able to receive continuity of service on their case if they need ongoing support after an initial call. With each interaction between client and lawyer, the client’s matter is pushed forward, reducing any duplication of work. Additionally, clients are matched with a lawyer who has the specific expertise necessary to provide tailored, actionable client advice.

“Access to justice is essential for all, and Blakes is keen to advocate for those who may not otherwise be able to access expert legal advice” Anna says. She explains that the civil law system can be difficult to navigate for individuals who are not otherwise functioning within it on a regular basis, and that it is a great feeling to provide advice or guidance to an individual who is seeking a remedy or is faced with a claim. “It is very rewarding to know that you have helped ease some of the anxiety for an individual who is faced with a difficult legal situation, or who has no idea where to seek help. Sometimes it is as simple as navigating a government website to find a form or find the correct phone number to help an individual access services. A small amount of assistance can be invaluable to Hotline clients” Anna says. Our Firm Managing Partner, Bryson Stokes, shares Anna’s sentiments and is a current member of PBO’s Board of Directors.

The Hotline has adapted over the last year to provide services remotely instead of out of the existing call centre. COVID-19 has had a major impact on low-income and marginalized populations in Ontario, particularly regarding housing and employment, and it has been essential that the Hotline remains open for business.