Notice to the Profession from Pro Bono Law of BC,
with endorsement of the Law Society of BC and the CBA (BC Branch)
Launch of ProBonoNet BC links lawyers and the community
November 19, 2002
The first website of its kind in Canada, ProBonoNet BC, was launched today at www.probononet.bc.ca, offering lawyers across BC the opportunity to respond directly to needs for pro bono assistance in their communities.
ProBonoNet BC is the cornerstone project of Pro Bono Law of BC - a non-profit society founded in 2002 by the Law Society of BC and the BC Branch of the Canadian Bar Association, with funding from the Law Foundation of BC, to coordinate the profession's efforts to meet public needs for pro bono legal assistance. The site will facilitate pro bono practice in the province by linking BC lawyers with community groups and pro bono organizations that need their services.
If you and your firm are interested in undertaking or renewing a commitment to pro bono, a visit to the ProBonoNet BC website is the first step.
What's on the site?
Lawyers will find a range of pro bono opportunities on the ProBonoNet BC site. You can choose to offer your services - whether summary advice, legal representation, legal research or mentoring - to those programs that best fit your interest and skill set.
Here are just a few of the pro bono opportunities now on the site:
- Setting up a trust fund for a woman with physical and mental disabilities (from West Coast Women's Resource Society, Uclulet)
- Assisting a group of recent immigrants with Small Claims Court actions against a landlord (from Tenants' Rights Action Coalition)
- Legal research on freedom of information and privacy issues (from Freedom of Information and Privacy Association)
For more on these and other opportunities, go to www.probononet.bc.ca. The home page of the website is designed primarily for members of the public. Lawyers and law firms can join the "Lawyers and Law Firms" user section in order to view the full range of requests for assistance, to see the latest pro bono news, to access pro bono resources and to exchange information on a secure message board. Juricert provides the registration process for this section of the site.
Community groups have their own user section, while other sections are under construction for other professionals (including mediators and interpreters) and for pro bono delivery organizations.
What is pro bono?
Pro Bono Law of BC defines pro bono work as "legal services for persons of limited means or not-for-profit organizations, provided without expectation of a fee."
The website is not intended to play a direct role in the delivery of pro bono legal services - rather, its function is to make connections between lawyers and the community. Pro Bono Law of BC is based on the principle that, while it is the primary responsibility of government to provide legal aid to ensure equal access to justice, the legal profession has a fundamental part to play in ensuring the proper administration of justice. Reports on the work of the Law Society/CBA pro bono initiative are available on the Law Society website:
- Report on the October 2001 Pro Bono Forum: www.lawsociety.bc.ca/library/report/docs/ProBonoForum.pdf
- Final report of the Law Society - Canadian Bar Association Pro Bono Committee: www.lawsociety.bc.ca/library/report/docs/ProBono(02-06).pdf.
With the extension of insurance coverage for pro bono made possible this year by the Law Society and the Lawyers Insurance Fund, and with the launch of ProBonoNet BC, the profession is well positioned to enhance BC's already strong pro bono culture.
A message from The Hon. Lance Finch, Chief Justice of BC
"I am very pleased to welcome the launch of ProBonoNet BC, which is a project of Pro Bono Law of BC, a joint initiative of the Law Society of British Columbia and the Canadian Bar Association (BC Branch). Pro Bono Law of BC was established to respond to the growing and critical need for pro bono legal assistance in British Columbia.
"The rule of law is the foundation of our safety and security, and of the rights and freedoms we all cherish. Access to the judicial system, regardless of an individual's means, is essential to ensuring that the rule of law prevails. Government is responsible for providing equal access to justice, and to that end funds many legal aid services in the province. The legal profession also has the obligation and opportunity to facilitate the due administration of justice by providing legal assistance when legal aid is not available.
"I strongly endorse the vision of this project. I believe that it has the potential to foster the availability of pro bono services in every BC community, and active pro bono programs within every law firm in the province."
For the full text of Chief Justice Finch's letter to Pro Bono Law of BC, see www.probononet.bc.ca.
How to register
Go to the ProBonoNet BC site at www.probononet.bc.ca. Click on the user group, "Lawyers and Law Firms," and complete the registration procedure.
When you are logged on as a registered user of the Lawyers and Law Firms group, the "Pro Bono Work" icon takes you to requests for assistance that have been registered by community groups. You can view requests by area of practice or by region, or both.
Registered users also have access to pages specifically designed for the "Lawyers and Law Firms" user group. These pages include resources, news, a calendar of events and a discussion board. You can contribute your own firm's news, events and resources and view what has been posted by others. The news section also carries the latest updates on insurance coverage available to lawyers doing pro bono work.
We invite you to visit the site, become a registered user and volunteer your time. With the profession's support, ProBonoNet BC will, over time, become a powerful tool for extending community access to a full range of high quality pro bono services.