Next steps to legal health

Guest author Dr. Ab Currie

Guest author Dr. Ab Currie

We’ve written here before about a legal health check project which was first piloted in southwestern Ontario in 2014. Dr. Ab Currie joins us with an update about the project.

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The Legal Health Check-Up (Check-up) project that was developed by Halton Community Legal Services (Halton) and adopted by three other community legal clinics is now expanding to an additional nine community legal clinics in the southwestern Ontario region.

The community legal clinics based in Hamilton, Brantford, and Guelph have also been developing their own Check-up projects since late summer 2015. These three early adopters have made great progress in establishing partnerships with community intermediary groups and in developing collaborative arrangements with them.

The other nine community legal clinics began their work with an “innovation lab” meeting on January 29, 2016 at the McMaster Innovation Park in Hamilton. Participants from the Halton, Hamilton, Guelph, and Brantford community legal clinics shared their experience with the nine new adopters on topics such as recruiting intermediaries, monitoring and data collection, and using the Legal Health Check-Up questionnaire.

The expansion of the Check-up is part of Legal Aid Ontario‘s transformation process that is designed to strengthen the capacity of community legal clinics. The expansion of the Check-up approach during the coming year will create an exciting learning environment.

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The Check-up approach originally developed by Halton isn’t a template to be replicated but, rather, a model to be adapted to the service delivery environment in each of the individual clinics. The expansion will encourage innovation and creativity rather than imitation. Within the broad outlines that define the fundamentals of the Check-up approach:

  • achieving greater outreach
  • increasing the numbers of people served and
  • devising holistic and integrated approaches to meeting the legal needs of the poor

Each of the twelve adopting clinics will develop its own approach to implementing and using the Check-up.

The implementation process in the adopting clinics and the continuing work in Halton will create a wealth of comparative information. This body of knowledge will include the different ways in which the clinics produce broadly similar outcomes, including the serendipitous discoveries and unanticipated consequences that arise from any implementation process.

Giving credit where it is due, this is a wise investment in innovation by Legal Aid Ontario that will enrich the Ontario’s community legal clinic system and legal aid in general.

The nine new community legal clinics adopting the Check-up approach are:

For more information about the Check-up, read my recent report The Next Step – The Subregional Rollout of the Legal Health Check-Up, and my previous report evaluating the Halton pilot.

Ab Currie holds a PhD in Sociology from the University of Toronto. He has been conducting policy research on legal aid and other access to justice issues for more than 25 years. He has authored about 50 reports, articles, and book chapters on access to justice topics. Dr. Currie carried out extensive research on unmet needs for legal aid. He has also conducted extensive research on the incidence and patterns of justiciable problems and on unmet need for access to justice services in civil matters. Justiciable problems are those commonly experienced by people that have a legal dimension and a legal solution. Dr. Currie found that justiciable problems often cluster together and have a cascading effect.

One Comment

  1. Author: Ingrid Sapona

    on February 16, 2016 at 12:41 pm - Reply

    Though I think the project sounds useful, I find the title unfortunate. By combining the words legal and health in the title (and the URL) I think you are creating confusion — is this health related info (as in — you have the legal right to assisted suicide) or is this legal info? Indeed, when I got the e-mail about this blog post I immediately thought it was something about making health info clear and understandable (in other words, in plain language) It wasn’t until I looked at it that I realized it’s related to legal rights.
    I think using the “check-up” approach is great — I just think it’s a bad idea to say a legal HEALTH check-up.

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