Access to Justice: Access Pro Bono’s Free Legal Advice-a-Thon

Practice Point


CLEBC is proud to support Access Pro Bono’s Free Legal Advice-a-Thon. Last Friday on September 9, 2016, more than 50 Vancouver lawyers volunteered for one-hour shifts throughout the day to provide free legal advice to individual clients at Victory Square Park.

This year’s Advice-a-Thon takes place at four locations throughout the province, with Vancouver’s Victory Square Park being the busiest. The event aims to garner public attention for Access Pro Bono’s ongoing free legal service programs including a summary advice program, a residential tenancy program, and a wills clinic.

At Victory Square Park, lawyers served low-and modest-income individuals, including homeless people who may otherwise have limited access to traditional free legal advice clinics. Access to justice and increasing awareness about barriers to access were top of mind for event volunteers, participants, and organizers.

“Access to justice is always important, especially in today’s society where economic disparity is increasing and marginalized individuals are facing significant cost consequences if they wish to hire a lawyer,” said Access Pro Bono’s Program Manager Priyan Samarakoone. “For example, in my work, I’ve seen people lose their homes or go bankrupt because of costs associated with divorce proceedings. But it shouldn’t be that way.”

Samarakoone hopes for a future in which legal aid will be fully funded, but in the meantime, believes that pro bono advice is an amazing way for lawyers to give back to the community. “I love the lawyers that volunteer with Access Pro Bono. They have a desire to give back, they are incredibly empathetic, and I enjoy working with them,” he said.

Dionne Liu is one of those lawyers. When CLEBC asked Liu what inspired her to volunteer at the Advice-a-Thon, Liu responded: “When you get a law degree, you gain a wealth of legal knowledge that the public should arguably be able to access. However, due to very real systemic financial and educational barriers, many people are unaware of their legal rights and remedies. The Advice-a-Thon is an opportunity for the public to learn more about the free legal services available to them and to receive legal advice they may otherwise not have access to.”

In addition to raising awareness, the Advice-a-Thon also serves as Access Pro Bono’s only fundraising event of the year. “The volunteer lawyers not only provide free advice at the event, they also canvass friends, family, and colleagues to donate towards the $70,000 fundraising goal,” said Paula LaBrie, Access Pro Bono’s Operations Coordinator. All funds raised from the event go directly towards Access Pro Bono’s free programs and the top fundraisers will receive CLEBC gift cards for continuing legal education resources.

For more photos from the event, visit our Facebook page.