Since their inception in the early 1970s, legal clinics have promoted access to justice. They provide free or low-cost legal services and support you to make your own decisions. There are two types of legal clinics. Do you know how to distinguish them?
Law students, here to help
Services are offered free of charge at university legal clinics. However, certain costs may be your responsibility, such as court fees or bailiff fees. Through these legal clinics, law students can improve their skills by applying what they learn in class to real-life situations.
In these clinics, you can receive legal information and have guidance on certain procedures. For example, you may be given resources or practical tools.
A new service has recently been introduced at these clinics: students can give legal advice under the supervision and responsibility of a practicing lawyer or notary.
Some legal advice they could offer you include
- Support in the preparation of your file,
- Preparation of legal documents (e.g. a formal notice), or
- Assistance in preparing an appeal against a decision with which you disagree.
Unfortunately, few clinics currently offer this new service. For the time being, students do not represent you in court or in mediation, and you remain responsible for your file at all times.
Community clinics to support you
Community clinic services can be free or low-cost. These legal clinics are mainly limited to giving you legal information and guiding you through the process.
Since May 2023, lawyers and notaries who work in a community legal clinic can give legal advice. These new services must be free or low-cost.
The criteria for benefiting from these services vary from one clinic to another. They may be related to your income, the area of law concerned by your problem or the availability of clinic resources. For example, some clinics offer employment law services, while others do not.
Legal clinics are not the only ones to offer legal services at low cost. There are other options for low-cost legal services.
Legal information or legal advice?
It’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between legal information and legal advice. Legal information allows you to better understand the legal aspects of your situation. Legal advice is more specific. It gives you a strategy on how to proceed and address the situation.