PLExchange blog

  • Adventures in PLE, part 2

    Perhaps the most important part of preparing to set up and deliver public legal education and information sessions is knowing your audience – what kinds of things they want to hear about, and why.

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  • Adventures in PLE, part 1

    We’ve written here before about the use of games in public legal education and information (PLE) work. Guest author Barbara Hurd, a long-time community legal worker, joins us today to talk about some of her experiences using games in her PLE work. A while back, a group of community legal workers and community legal clinic […]

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  • New report from CLEO

    CLEO recently released a new research report – Public Legal Education and Information in Ontario: Learning from a Snapshot. In our research, we identified an abundance of legal information resources available in Ontario available in Ontario, produced by hundreds of government and community-based providers.

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  • Pinballs no more

    Clients get understandably frustrated when they have to go through a separate intake process at each agency, which can lead to “referral fatigue”. They have to repeat their story three or four times, sometimes more. They’re bounced around like pinballs. It’s vexing for the clients, and inefficient for us.

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  • Next steps to legal health

    The Legal Health Check-Up project that was developed by Halton Community Legal Services in Halton Region is expanding to an additional nine community legal clinics in the southwestern Ontario region.

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  • Build on this and take it deeper: reflections on a libraries and justice partnership event

    Sabreena Delhon joins us with a guest blog post on an event that explored ways that library and justice organizations can work together to improve access to justice in rural and remote communities.

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  • Establish, enhance, engage: reflections on a libraries and justice partnerships event

    Accessing the justice system is challenging in numerous ways, particularly in rural and remote communities where the digital divide and sheer geographic distance are major barriers. In contrast, libraries in rural and remote locations are effective access points not only for information but also for programs that reflect community specific needs. This was the starting […]

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  • The timeliness of early intervention

    As Stephen Wexler noted in 1979, “Poor people are not just rich people without money…. Poverty creates an abrasive interface with society; poor people are always bumping into sharp legal things.”

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  • Lessons learned at local libraries

    If library staff do not understand the difference between legal information and legal advice, they will be very reluctant to provide legal information and referrals to patrons.

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  • Does an apple a day keep the courthouse away?

    In our research, we found at least one striking difference between delivery of health information and public legal information and information (PLE) – the focus on prevention. Traditionally, there has been far less focus on delivering preventative-type PLE than health information.

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  • Librarians, lawyers and justice

    Community Advocacy & Legal Centre – in partnership with CLEO, the Rural & Remote Boldness Access to Justice project and The Action Group on Access to Justice – is hoping to inspire new links between clinics and the library sector to improve access to justice in Ontario’s rural and remote communities.

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  • Justice at your library?

    “We learned that librarians wanted to learn more about what role public library staff could play to connect people dealing with common legal problems to the justice resources that they needed. They were also interested in building their skills at “red-flagging” legal issues and displaying plain language legal information.”

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  • Innovation and access to justice

    “Over any three-year period, nearly half of all Canadians will experience at least one legal problem. Yet, the justice system is increasingly inaccessible to the majority of Canadians…. we are only beginning to understand the opportunities and challenges that manifest when we begin to view the problem of access to justice through an innovation lens.”

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  • Scarcely getting by

    Behavioural economists have recently found that “raising monetary concerns for the poor… erodes cognitive performance even more than being seriously sleep-deprived”.

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  • New resource for community workers – the PLE Toolbox

    CLEO’s Centre for Research and Innovation is pleased to launch our newest public legal education and information resource – the PLE Toolbox.

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  • Don’t get lost in translation

    Would you like to make some of your public legal education and information materials available in languages other than English? It’s important to identify priority languages, especially if you have limited resources.

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  • Still looking for the right words?

    Do you prepare public legal education and information materials in writing? Here are some plain language tools that might help you with your work.

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  • Summary of CLEO’s report on health literacy

    A summary version of CLEO’s recent report linking health literacy and legal capability is now available.

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  • CLEO resource for community workers now available in French

    Confused about the difference between legal information and legal advice? We prepared a fact sheet for community intermediaries and workers to help clarify this issue. It describes the difference between legal information and legal advice and gives examples to help non-legal community workers, advocates and other trusted intermediaries understand the difference. This resource is now […]

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  • Getting information to the most vulnerable

    Trafficked people are extremely isolated, marginalized and attempting to survive in high-risk situations. A new Connecting Communities project is aiming to reach them with legal information about their rights.

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  • PLE Learning Exchange day of discussion

    We’re pleased to announce that we will be hosting another day of discussion this year. We’re looking forward to sharing experiences with and learning from others who are working to increase understanding of legal rights within communities across Ontario. This event will take place on Monday, June 1, 2015 at the 519 Church Street Community […]

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  • Fines, tickets and justice

    There’s a legal clinic in Toronto called Fair Change Community Legal Services that has been doing amazing work helping homeless people who have faced thousands of dollars in fines. In addition to providing direct service to clients, Fair Change offers legal information sessions to community agencies on ticket issues.

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  • Linking health literacy and legal capability

    CLEO’s Centre for Research and Innovation is pleased to release a new discussion paper, Don’t smoke, don’t be poor, read before signing: linking health literacy and legal capability.

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  • Let’s discuss creative strategies

    We’ve learned recently about some public legal education and information projects that bring a creative approach to sharing information – literally. They use arts, crafts, games and theatre to help people share stories and information.

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  • Rethinking accessibility

    The author argues that present approaches to web accessibility, although a good start, are flawed because they focus on what people with disabilities “lack” in ability. In her words, “We need to stop invoking the internal stereotypes we have about who is disabled…. We can reframe accessibility in terms of what we provide, not what other people lack.”

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  • Connecting Communities makes the news!

    The CBC in Thunder Bay recently profiled an innovative Connecting Communities project – bringing aboriginal elders together through a quilting circle to share stories and learn about social assistance and human rights law. In late January 2015, elders gathered at the Thunder Bay Indian Friendship Centre to unveil a quilt they’d worked on for eight […]

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  • Connecting Ottawa Legal Health Check-Up

    Connecting Ottawa decided to develop a legal health check resource because they got feedback from community workers that it can be challenging to flag legal problems their clients are facing.

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  • New funding for CLEO research

    CLEO is pleased to announce that the Law Foundation of Ontario has funded its Evolving Legal Services Research Project.

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  • Getting graphic with public legal education

    We’d like to share the story of how the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted (AIDWYC) created a graphic novel for youth called “The Jakob Jackson Story: How Jakob Jackson was almost sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit”.

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  • A “keep it simple” thesaurus

    We were pleased to learn that Clear Language and Design (CLAD), a Toronto organization that provides clear language training and assessment services, recently published a new free resource on their website – a clear language thesaurus.

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  • Request for input on our PLE Toolbox project

    CLEO’s Centre for Research and Innovation is looking for feedback on a draft of the first “drawer” or module in our Public Legal Education and Information Toolbox.

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  • Is your content readable?

    When producing information for the public, it’s important to choose the language level that’s most easily understood by your target audience.

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  • New Report from CLEO

    We are releasing “Evolving Legal Services: Review of Current Literature”, a report prepared for CLEO by Dr. Melina Buckley as part of the planning phase of our Evolving Legal Services Research Project (ELSRP).

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  • The expansive effect of storytelling

    People identify with stories on a visceral and emotional level, which – in our view – can help them process and retain the information communicated through the stories.

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  • PLE by design

    “Design is about more than aesthetics. It is a problem-solving approach, just like law is. Design is a set of mindsets, tools, and process that anyone (trained formally in design or not — traditionally “creative” or not) can deploy when faced with a challenge. Just like law school teaches “thinking like a lawyer”, I would advocate we should also be learning how to “think (or better yet — act) like a designer.”

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  • Storytelling, chocolate and research

    Monica’s team includes a poet and playwright who both love to use storytelling in their work as they develop content and engage with communities. They view stories as a great way to mobilize and enthuse trusted intermediaries and educate them about the legal resources available to their clients.

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  • Making your text accessible

    The jury’s still out on whether fonts like Dyslexie improve legibility on a wider level – but it’s clear that formatting changes can make a big difference.

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  • What’s in a font?

    Whether you’re creating public legal education and information materials, or designing a poster to promote an event, it’s important to choose a font that is readable for your audience. But did you know your choice of font could also affect how credible your content seems?

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  • Fewer words for the wise

    Less is usually more. We’ve said that many times here, but it’s a principle that can be hard to stick to, especially when you’re busy trying to decode confusing and complicated information for your clients on a daily basis.

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  • Connecting Communities shares resources from completed projects

    Connecting Communities has uploaded links to public legal education and information training materials produced by several Connecting Communities projects. The materials were used to train community intermediaries and front-line workers on various aspects of the law affecting Ontarians in diverse and remote communities.

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  • Legal health checks – sample tools

    We at the PLE Learning Exchange want to help support you in developing legal health checks. Visit our new Legal health check page for links to legal health check tools used in Ontario and other jurisdictions.

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  • The wizards of Oz: learnings from Australia

    We welcome Michele Leering of the Community Advocacy & Legal Centre in Belleville, Ontario as a regular guest author for the PLexchange. Michele has recently returned from a self-funded study leave in which she explored approaches to public legal education and information (PLE) and access to justice issues in several different countries, including Australia. She will be joining us once a month to chat about what she learned on her trip.

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  • Community legal education made easy

    Are you embarking on a public legal education and information project for the first time? Or, looking for some ideas to refresh your approach to existing projects? Check out this series of information sheets produced by the Victoria Law Foundation in Australia.

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  • A fable for our times

    Health professionals, like legal service providers and community agencies, must often explain complex and life-altering concepts to the people they serve within very limited time constraints. And, as a recent discussion paper written in the style of a fable points out, this can be very challenging

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  • It’s (almost) all in the presentation

    Choosing language that your audience will understand is only part of your job when producing information. You also have to make sure it’s presented in a logical way, so that it’s clear and easy to understand.

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  • Finding a common language

    Several recent research reports in the access to justice sector highlight the need for collaboration between organizations that have different but equally valuable expertise.

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  • Writing for English language learners

    When you’re preparing public legal education and information materials, it’s important to remember that much of what we consider “everyday English” can be confusing for people who are not native English speakers.

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  • The need for assessment

    Are you designing a training program for community intermediaries to help reach your target audience? No matter how well you know your target audience, it’s important to take the time to conduct a needs assessment before you start to design program content.

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  • Survey savvy

    Surveys and questionnaires are cost-effective tools to assess public legal education and information (PLE) needs in your community or to evaluate a training session. However, any survey is only as valuable as the number of responses you get from it.

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  • Advice about acronyms

    Did you know that the word “laser” started off as an acronym for “light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation”?

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  • New webinar! Better legal information: the How-to’s of Plain Language – the sequel

    Plain language is quickly becoming the “new normal” in legal writing: direct, simple, and clear. This webinar, hosted by the PLE Learning Exchange, explores practical techniques to create easy-to-understand legal information for the public. Topics covered in the webinar, which lasts just under 1 hour, include: planning legal information projects with audience and purpose in […]

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  • Put your materials to the test

    The best way to find out if your information will be useful to your target audience is to “field test” it – or ask them what they think of it before you complete the project. No room in your budget to hire a company to run focus groups? Here are some suggestions for cheap and cheerful ways to test your PLE materials.

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  • Less can be more

    Ever find yourself leaving a web page because the amount of information there seemed overwhelming? You’re not alone.

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  • Game changers

    Looking for less traditional public legal education and information tools? When METRAC, a Toronto-based charity serving women and youth, wanted to produce an educational tool for young people to challenge sexual violence, they worked with youth to develop a digital quiz game.

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  • Case in point

    Are you preparing public legal education (PLE) print materials? Consider including stories about people – case studies – to help introduce common legal situations in a way that your audience can identify with.

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  • Upcoming webinar – Better Legal Information: the How-to’s of Plain Language, Part II

    Plain language is quickly becoming the “new normal” in legal writing: direct, simple, and clear.

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  • Checking up on legal health

    How to reach people with a legal problem before the problem gets too large to solve?

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  • The essence of evaluations

    Just when you thought all the hard work on your public legal education and information (PLE) project was done – now it’s time to evaluate your work. It can be easy to see evaluation as only a bureaucratic chore – perhaps because funders often base funding decisions on program outcomes. However, evaluation is not just […]

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  • Getting rid of jargon

    It can be easy to slip into using jargon when writing public legal education and information materials – especially when you are exposed to it through your daily work. However, jargon can make your information hard to understand for many readers.

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  • Training the trainers – tried and true strategies

    Are you embarking on training community workers for the first time? Or, need some ideas as to how to promote and deliver your current training sessions to new groups?

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  • Tip sheets for community workers – effective training practices

    Looking for some tips and tricks on how to set up, promote and conduct successful public legal education and information (PLE) training sessions and evaluate outcomes?

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  • Using media to promote your message

    Producing public legal education and information (PLE) materials is hard work. But your PLE still needs to be promoted and distributed. Picking the medium or media that your audience is most likely to access can make all the difference.

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  • Too much information?

    A lot of legal information focuses on what the law says and doesn’t really tell people what they need to know about the topic. Think about what most members of your target audience need to know, and let these guide you in deciding what basic information to include.

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  • Let’s get active!

    Ever hear the expression “less is more”? When writing public legal educational materials, that is often a good thing to keep in mind.

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  • Writing for different regions

    When preparing public legal educational (PLE) materials, it’s important to be aware of differences in provincial and territorial laws and procedures, as well as variations in the names of government departments or other organizations.

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  • Can you count on it?

    My 20-year old son is in the process of entering his first tenancy agreement and has already met with a request from his landlord that violates the law. He’s planning to do a Google search to learn more about tenants’ rights. I asked him how he would assess whether the information he finds is reliable.

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  • The value of take-home information

    There is a vast amount of online legal information out there, and studies from many sectors show that more people are accessing information online. So is print material still useful?

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  • It’s not all fun and games – or is it?

    Do you like playing Sudoku? Or, ever remember making an origami paper fortune teller when you were a kid?

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  • Connecting Communities – new video

    Some of the Connecting Communities projects are introducing themselves with short video clips describing who they are and what they do.

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  • Giving more weight to your words

    Use emphasis in your printed PLE materials to highlight the most important pieces of information you’d like to convey to your readers. Too much emphasis, however, CAN BE A BAD THING!!!

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  • Coast(er)ing to success

    Do you need a new approach to get your organization’s name and message out there?

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  • Upcoming Webinar: Building Effective Workshops for Trusted Intermediaries

    This webinar highlights tools, tips, pitfalls, and concrete examples to help you plan and deliver effective public legal education training for trusted intermediaries.

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  • Numbers – to use or not to use?

    Does “4/1/14” refer to “April 1, 2014” or “January 4, 2014”? If you’re not sure, readers of your printed materials won’t be, either.

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  • Working close to the ground

    When designing PLE, working with agencies from other sectors can help make your materials more relevant to your audience. The Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations was reminded of the importance of staying close to the ground when working on the Connecting Communities Tenants’ School project in collaboration with settlement agencies.

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  • What’s in a tone?

    Have you ever come across the problem in social media or email where someone misunderstood what you were trying to say because they couldn’t hear the humour in your “voice”?

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  • Connecting Communities on video

    The Connecting Communities projects are introducing themselves with short video clips describing who they are and what they do.

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  • Together we are strong

    When I began my work at CLEO at the turn of this century, public legal education and information (PLE) seemed to be an obscure field of work that rarely captured attention in the justice sector. How that has changed!

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  • Welcome to the PLExchange

    We hope to use this space to share some of our thoughts and tips on what makes PLE most effective and relevant and to provide you with a place to share your PLE strategies and ideas with others.

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  • Upcoming webinar – Better Legal Information: the How-To’s of Plain Language

    Plain language is quickly becoming the “new normal” in legal writing: direct, simple, and clear. This 1-hour webinar explores practical techniques to create easy-to-understand legal information for the public.

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  • PLExchange blog coming soon – stop by and visit us!

    The PLE Learning Exchange is pleased to announce that we’ll soon be starting up a new blog…

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  • Using online tools to assess our public legal education (PLE) work

    This webinar looks at how to use a number of free or low-cost online tools to measure your impact.

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  • Do you create legal information for the public? Check out CLEO’s new Better Legal Information Handbook

    Topics include writing for your audience, choosing the best format, applying plain language and design principles, ensuring accuracy, testing, and evaluating.

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  • New Connecting Communities Project: Listening and Learning

    Connecting Communities is pleased to announce its newest project, Listening and Learning: A Community Legal Information Training Project, sponsored by the Thunder Bay Indian Friendship Centre and Kinna-aweya Legal Clinic.

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