• March 10, 2014

There is no pro bono organization in Manitoba. The Manitoba Bar Association has a Pro Bono Project in partnership with the Public Interest Law Centre. Members can sign up to participate in one of three ways:

  1. they can take a regular Legal Aid certificate, and arrange for their fees to be directed to the Public Interest Law Centre
  2. they can make a donation by cash or cheque
  3. they can join our pro bono panel of lawyers who are willing to work on a public interest case pro bono. They might take on a case on their own, they might work with us as co-counsel, or they might simply be available to consult or give advice as needed. By the way, cases accepted by this office are public interest cases, which are likely to change the law, or to affect a large number of people.

Recently a group of volunteers organized and launched the Legal Help Centre. Using donations, a very small staff, and a group of volunteer students (from law and social work) and volunteer lawyers, the Help Centre has drop in hours where people can show up, and meet with a student. The student will interview the client, and for those with legal issues that may have some merit, they can arrange an appointment with a volunteer lawyer, who can give some preliminary advice or referrals. They do not usually provide representation, as far as I am aware. I will send you the link to the Help Centre's website.

This isn't a pro bono service, but the Law Society of Manitoba has launched a Family Law Access program, whereby low income clients who do not qualify for legal aid can receive legal assistance with family law matters at a reduced cost. Lawyers sign up to take clients at a reduced fee. The Law Society pays the lawyers directly, and is responsible for collecting from the client, usually through a payment plan. I understand that uptake has been high, and there is often a waiting list. I'll send you the link for this program as well.

Finally, the Community Legal Education Association offers a free legal information call-in line, as well as a lawyer referral line, answered by 2 staff lawyers. Both lines are very busy, and it is difficult to get through.

I suspect that the issues in Manitoba are similar to other provinces.

There are a number of places where people can go to get some initial advice or referrals. The trouble is that there are very few options for getting pro bono representation (other than for public interest cases).

Community Legal Education Assistance (CLEA)

Community Legal Education Association is a charitable organization that provides Manitobans with information about the law through several services. PBSC volunteers Students provide legal information to those needing assistance, in response to questions that have been pre-screened by staff.

Legal Help Centre

Legal Help Centre works in partnership with the community to increase access to legal and social service systems for disadvantaged community members by providing referrals, legal help and public legal education and information. PBSC volunteers assist with the centre's intake, provide research for volunteer lawyers and interview clients in several legal areas, including family law.

NorWest Co-op Community Health: A Woman's Place

A Woman’s Place Domestic Violence Support and Legal Services provides supportive counselling and legal services for women who have exited/are exiting an abusive relationship. PBSC volunteers provide information to women on family law issues and other legal issues related to domestic violence.