Access to justice in Canada is in a state of crisis. The Chief Justice has spoken publicly about the inability of most Canadians to afford counsel. The Canadian Bar Association finds high proportions of people navigate legal proceedings on their own because of the failure of legal aid. Yet, in 2010 more than 150,000 youth dealt with the criminal legal system -- many alone, as teens and social workers rarely receive reliable advice. Without change, these teens will be lost in the legal system.
We help teens by offering free and confidential legal advice through our website at www.teenlegalhelpline.org. According to experts, the largest unmet access to justice need is diagnosing and explaining legal situations, and that is what Teen Legal Helpline does.
Teen Legal Helpline is the first service of its kind to use technology to improve access to justice. Attempts to alleviate the problem in Canada have so far depended on legal clinics that provide free or low cost legal services only to indigent clients. These almost always have physical locations, depend on public funding (which is on the verge of collapse), and cannot scale. Instead of relying on the service models of physical clinics, we leverage a network of volunteer lawyers across the country to provide teens with specific answers to their legal questions. We can do this because our platform is designed to solve the largest barrier to lawyer volunteerism: the inability to predict availability or capacity. Our service lets lawyers answer discrete questions at their convenience and directly from their inbox, without disrupting how they currently work. Our technology is built to handle very large volumes of questions, so we can scale to match the size of the problem we are tackling.
Funded by Toronto (February 2013)