A Seamless Approach to Service Delivery in Legal Aid: Fulfilling a Promise or Maintaining a Myth?
The "seamless" approach to the delivery of legal services assumes that the object of the exercise is problem solving and life enhancement for individuals and communities. That approach assumes that poor people should have access to skilled, competent lawyers who can solve their problems. However, it also understands that many problems arise from particular locations and instances of oppression, inequity and injustice and that solutions will be difficult and ephemeral. Because that is so, a seamless approach includes coalition building, consciousness raising and education and personal support along with and frequently instead of litigation or advocacy. Parkdale Community Legal Services has been practising in this way for thirty years, often without any funding at all allocated to community work. It can do so because of free student labour. Thus, a final question for any pilot project would be to determine the role the students play, who or what might fill that role in Clinics without students, and at what cost. Finally, the need for a director of community development position alongside the director of legal services that every Clinic now has should be explored. The administration of complex, long term, transparent and effective community projects is every bit as demanding as administering the delivery of legal services. It may well be time to recognize that fact administratively.
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