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The Critical Characteristics of Community Legal Aid Clinics in Ontario

By: Lenny Abramowicz

Community Legal Aid Clinics have been in existence in Ontario for 30 years. Ontario’s clinic system has been applauded by international observers of the legal aid landscape. Administrators of legal aid programs from around the world regularly come to Ontario to study the clinic system. At a time when legal aid services in most jurisdictions have been contracted, Ontario’s clinic system is in the midst of an expansion process. How to account for this success? What are the unique characteristics of community legal clinics in Ontario that made them so successful, and have led Ontario’s Chief Justice, The Honourable R. Roy McMurtry, to state in 1997, regarding the clinics: The last twenty-five years have shown how the power of an idea – when matched with energy, determination, and community support – can make a crucial and enduring difference.