Amici Curiae Pro Bono Paralegal Program

How was Amici Curiae established?

Dom Bautista, our executive director,  was in the audience when Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice McLachlin spoke at the Clearing the Path to Justice forum last January 28, 2009, where she suggested that the solution to improving access to justice will require collaboration from the government, the courts and the profession.

Shortly after,  Dom visited with Supreme Court of BC Chief Justice Brenner to discuss how paralegals can have a meaningful role in improving access to justice. The chief justice liked the idea and asked Dom to speak to Jaime MacLaren, the executive director of Access Pro Bono BC and to the Ministry of the Attorney General's Justice Access Centre's Vancouver office. Simultaneously, he call asked a number of his paralegal friends to join as volunteers.

In the ensuing months, a partnership was formed between the profession (APBBC), the public (Ministry of AG) and paralegals.

Two years later, on February 8, 2011, Amici Curiae began its pilot operations. On its first anniversary, Amici Curiae has served 140 clients. Amici Curiae served 175 clients on its second year.

In the first two years of its operations, AC assisted in drafting civil pleadings and court forms. As well it worked on bankruptcy, employment standards and tenancy related matters.

Now in its third year of operations, AC now assists in completing family affidavits and
JCC Orders; after chamber applications; Desk Orders divorce Orders, Final Orders , and other Orders (Consent, Without Notice, Restraining).


How do clients get access to paralegals?

Amici Curiae services clients who need help in drafting SCBC civil forms and chamber applications. These clients are required to first get written advice and to book an appointment through the Justice Access Centre 604.660.2084.

Qualified clients are scheduled for at least an hour.

Prior to their first meeting, they will also be required to complete a client intake form that sets out among other things the nature of their claim and the types of documents that they need to bring. Clients are expected to show both the written legal advice and client intake form at the beginning of each session.

Paralegals do not provide legal advice. A duty counsel attends each session to supervise the paralegals. All drafted documents must be submitted to and approved by the duty counsel before the client receives these.

If the client needs to return, the paralegal may recommend to the duty counsel what tasks need to be done and how much time is needed to finish the these.  Upon the consent of duty counsel, the paralegal will advice the triage manager to book the next session (with a minimum of one and a maximum of two hours per session).

A new legal advice form is completed to reflect what was done for each session, reviewed and signed by duty counsel and signed by the client. The client keeps the white form and the duty counsel keeps the yellow form. The client intake form is returned to the client and they will be reminded to bring these forms for their next session.


What are the requirements for a paralegal to qualify?

Interested volunteers must have a minimum of two years paralegal or legal assistant experience in litigation. They do not need to have completed post-secondary training to qualify. They have to submit a current CV, sign a service / non-disclosure letter and attend at least one observation session.

Additionally, volunteers are strongly encouraged to attend (in-person or by webinar) its monthly lectures, which takes place every second Tuesday. There is an archive of past lectures available. Volunteers do not need to pay to attend or access these lectures.


How often do volunteers get assigned?

Volunteers are assigned once every six weeks, generally. They of course, can ask for more. Or less. Volunteers who need to take breaks are asked to just let Pat Terlecki know.

The volunteer roster is released at least a month ahead of time.


Where do the paralegal sessions take place?

The paralegal sessions are hosted by the Vancouver Justice Access Centre at Room 290 at 800 Hornby Street every Wednesday from 5:30 to 7:30 PM.


How are conflict checks done?

The assigned paralegals generally receive the roster of clients from Pat Terlecki on Monday at noon so that they can do their conflict check. At their earliest opportunity but no later than Tuesday at noon, they are asked to advise to Pat. She will then assign clients to the paralegals and advice the JAC coordinator of these assignments.


How do you maintain a consistent level delivery of service?

Since most of our volunteers serve once every six weeks, a triage manager is present during the sessions. As well, there is a precedent bank that volunteers rely on. In some cases, additional information on the returning client's case is available.

AC recognizes that its volunteers may not necessarily be exposed to every area of law, we have created and archived Amici Curaie lectures to provide them with a strong knowledge base.


Contacts

To enquire further about this program, please contact: 
Dom Bautista: dom.bautista@canadianparalegalinstitute.com
To enquire further about how this program operates, please contact:
Pat Terlecki: PTerlecki@tshlaw.ca
To enquire further about how this program operates, please contact:
Jacqueline Malamalatabua: jacqueline@taylorandblair.com 
To enquire about the Amici Curiae Lectures, please contact:
Dom Bautista: dom.bautista@canadianparalegalinstitute.com

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