Quebec law students will offer free legal advice

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Access to free legal advice even if you can’t get legal aid will soon be within reach for Quebecers: A pilot project starting this fall will become a permanent legal clinic in 2023.

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The Barreau du Québec announced Tuesday that its project has two goals: to increase access to justice while providing law school graduates with hands-on experience interacting with clients.

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The president of the Barreau du Québec, Catherine Claveau, said it would be “the largest student legal clinic and the only legal clinic with compulsory attendance for law students in North America and in the Francophonie”.

Legal advice will be given by the students in the last stage of their training. Attendance at the clinic will be required for all students, who will be mentored through the process by experienced lawyers.

The initiative required legislative changes that would allow students to provide legal advice and consultation. Quebec Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette said it was “the last jurisdiction in Canada where law students could not give legal advice under the supervision of a lawyer.”

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The students will initially offer advice in civil law, family law, housing law and social law — the most pressing needs, according to Mr. Claveau — but the scope of the project will eventually be extended to other areas.

The pilot project, which will include in-person and virtual consultations, will be led by the Montreal Bar School with 100 students and about 20 supervising lawyers serving approximately 400 clients. It will begin on October 18, but the Bar will take appointments from September 15. The project will expand to Quebec, Sherbrooke and Gatineau in the fall of 2023, with 1,400 students, 200 supervising lawyers and up to 6,000 clients per year.

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