by Susan Irwin, Lawyer/Executive Director
Change is one of life’s few certainties. It applies equally to individuals and to organizations, although in the business context it is often described as “innovation” or “transformation”.
Within the next few months, Rural Legal Services (RLS) will be undergoing a “transformative” change as we amalgamate with another rural community legal clinic, currently known as the Lanark Leeds & Grenville Legal Clinic (LANARK). As community legal clinics, both RLS and the LANARK receive funding from Legal Aid Ontario to provide a range of free legal services for our respective communities including:
legal information and summary legal advice to area residents regardless of income;
casework and representation before courts and tribunals in certain areas of the law for financially eligible residents, and
public legal education, law reform and community development.
The amalgamated clinic, to be known simply as THE LEGAL CLINIC, will be responsible for the provision of clinic law services throughout northern Frontenac and northern Lennox & Addington counties, Lanark county and the united counties of Leeds & Grenville, an area comprising 9,938 square kilometers. Our amalgamation is supported by Legal Aid Ontario as part of its ongoing efforts to transform and modernize community legal clinics. In a recently released “Strategic Directions” paper on Clinic Law Services, Legal Aid Ontario stated that: “A smaller number of larger clinics with greater capacity could result in more clients served, more strategic and effective use of resources, more innovation, and reduced administrative costs. Larger clinics could be better positioned to leverage technology and/or develop partnerships that actually expand client access to clinic law services.”
Well, that’s the plan, at least. However, as someone once remarked: “The devil is in the details.” The nuts and bolts of the amalgamation are still being negotiated but here’s what we do know:
The full-time office operated by RLS and located at Northern Frontenac Community Services in Sharbot Lake and staffed by lawyers Susan Irwin and Anne-Marie Langan will remain in business;
The satellite office in Northbrook at Land o’ Lakes Community Services will still be staffed by a lawyer two Wednesdays per month.
You can still reach us by calling 613-279-3252 or toll free at 1-888-777-8916, and to continue to be a “community” legal clinic, members of our community will still be very much needed to act as directors for the new organization.
Over the years clinic law services in this community have undergone a number of changes from our early beginnings in the 1970s as a Queen’s law student initiative to a program offered by Northern Frontenac Community Services to our evolution as an independent not-for-profit corporation known as Rural Legal Services. Our amalgamation with LANARK is yet another transformation.
Details of further changes will be announced in up-coming Legalese columns.
Legalese is a column of general information and opinion on legal topics by the lawyers of Rural Legal Services, Box 359, Sharbot Lake, ON, K0H 2P0, 613-279-3252, or 1-888-777-8916. This column is not intended to provide legal advice. You should contact a lawyer to determine your legal rights and obligations.