The pandemic has upended the way the legal profession provides services, but one thing that has remained unchanged is the demand for volunteers and pro bono legal work in Ontario. In fact, that demand has increased. The needs of Ontarians who accessed pro bono services prior to the pandemic are on-going and are now competing with the needs of the thousands of other Ontarians whose livelihoods, businesses, and personal lives have been altered or interrupted by pandemic shutdowns and the flurry of pandemic-related legislation and regulations.
There is similarly a more pressing need for mentorship and peer support for young lawyers and legal professionals starting their careers, or those struggling to overcome work or personal challenges during the pandemic.
Lawyers and other legal professionals have a strong tradition of giving back to their profession and the community through volunteerism, and that tradition does not need to be interrupted by the pandemic. There are still plenty of ways to get involved and give back. Some volunteer organizations have had to re-invent their service delivery model, such as Lawyers Feed the Hungry Toronto, which has switched from sit-down meals to take out meals. Others have continued with small modifications or shifts to a virtual platform. For instance, Pro Bono Ontario closed its Law Help Centres and halted in-person assistance, but has pivoted to completely remote operations offered through its Free Legal Advice Hotline. All organizations still very much count on volunteers to meet their on-going and ever-growing demand.