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Law students practise access to justice

November 16, 2006

Source: University of Windsor!OpenDocument

(WINDSOR, ONTARIO, THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2006) - Individuals with intellectual disabilities in Windsor and Essex County may make a smoother adjustment to living independently thanks to the generosity of some Faculty of Law students at the University of Windsor.

For the past few years, U of W student volunteers with Pro Bono Students Canada have been bettering their communities by providing free legal assistance to organizations such as Community Living Essex County. This year, theyíll be researching information on tenantsí rights and producing a plain-language resource to help people with intellectual disabilities adjust to living on their own.

"The development of this resource will be a true benefit to the people we support in understanding some of their basic rights as tenants," said Essex Community Living Services Director Donna McKrow.

Since its inception in 1998, more than 150 law students have volunteered their time to complete more than 70 projects for about 40 Windsor-area organizations which donít have the financial resources to pay for legal assistance.

The program is in keeping with the Law facultyís access to justice credo, noted Shannon Goffin, Coordinator of the Windsor branch of Pro Bono Students Canada.

"It underlies everything we do at this law school. Windsor is a leader in that principle," she said. "It teaches students that itís important to give back to their communities."

Volunteers help with tasks such as legal and policy research writing; writing and producing educational materials; legal workshop preparation and other services that make use of studentsí legal training.

Organizations that have benefited from the program include:

  • Citizenís Advocacy: Elder Abuse Resource and Prevention Committee, where students produced a legal rights brochure for seniors;

  • Hospice of Windsor, where students revised the organizationís bylaws;

  • Alive! Canada, a suicide awareness and prevention organization, where students developed new bylaws to address the current realities of the group.

    The community receives about $1.2 million in free legal assistance annually from the volunteer work of Legal Assistance of Windsor (LAW), Community Legal Aid and pro bono students, said Faculty of Law Dean Bruce Elman.

    "Theyíre absolutely essential," Elman said of the programsí impact. "I donít think the community could survive without them. Itís a great hidden asset."- 30-

    CONTACT:Lori KoutrosManager, News ServicesOffice of Public AffairsUniversity of Windsor(519) 253-3000 ext. 3241Cell: (519) 564-9908

    Steve FieldsResearch WriterOffice of Public Affairs(519) 253-3000 ext. 2092

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