Virtual Legal Clinic
The Virtual Legal Clinic is a free service offered by Rise Women’s Legal Centre. The program uses the community partner model to connect women in British Columbia who need legal help with a volunteer lawyer for legal advice and strategy using video conferencing.
What is the Community Partner Model?
The VLC relies on a Community Partner model to ensure that clients are connected to a person in their own community who is aware of their needs, and can help each client implement and carry out the volunteer lawyer’s advice. Community partners sign up with the VLC and attend a brief clinic orientation and training (offered twice monthly) before they’re ready to refer clients to the clinic.
Why the Community Partner Model?
We know that many women are not able to navigate the legal system without additional support, and free summary advice programs by telephone often can only give short procedural advice and have limited (if any) ability to review documents with clients. It’s also difficult for a client to seek further advice from the same lawyer at subsequent appointments.
The VLC lawyer will not represent your client in court but only provide summary legal advice and unbundled legal services. Most of our volunteer lawyers are located in Vancouver and cannot travel to other communities for court.
Who can sign up?
Our program is open to any and all frontline community workers who serve self-identified women with legal matters in British Columbia. If a member of your organization has already registered as a Community Partner with the VLC, you do not need to register as a Community Partner again. Instead, please contact us and we will add you to our mailing list. If you have any questions or want to join the VLC as a community partner, please contact us at [email protected]
What is expected of me as a Community Partner?
Many clients struggle to implement legal advice, so as part of the client intake process, we ask that Community Partners assist clients in filling out the intake form, and then help us coordinate a three-way online meeting between themselves (the Community Partner), the client and the volunteer lawyer. See FAQs for more details.
We will never ask you to operate outside your organization’s scope of practice or mandate and will collaborate with you to find the best available supports for our client.
Family Advocates Support Line
Rise’s Family Advocate Support Line (FASL) a dedicated telephone support line designed to help family advocates, frontline workers, and support workers in BC provide better service to their clients. Please note that this resource is for workers only and does not accept direct calls from clients.
Our FASL lawyer can provide legal information and legal advice about family law, primarily involving divorce, separation and separation agreements, child support, extraordinary expenses, spousal support, and relocation, including family law matters in both Provincial and Supreme Courts in BC.
Our FASL lawyer also provides direct ongoing training for support and frontline workers on matters of family law, presenting dozens of training sessions per year.
Family Advocates and Support Workers
To receive help for your clients, please email [email protected]
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
VLC - What is the intake process?
To access the VLC the Community Partner and their client complete an intake form and send it to Rise’s case manager, who will have a quick phone call with the Community Partner and client to make sure the VLC is the best resource for the client’s needs. We’ll also need to make sure that the client has the supports they might need in their community to implement the advice our volunteer lawyer may give them, plus collect any relevant documents and answer questions.
After the intake conversation, we can set up an appointment for the lawyer, the client, and their Community Partner/advocate to meet through Zoom or telephone.
What happens during a Virtual Legal Clinic meeting?
During a VLC meeting, your client will explain their matter to a lawyer, and they will receive summary advice and possibly unbundled legal services.
Summary advice means that your client can ask the lawyer questions about their legal issue and the lawyer will provide your client with information about their legal rights and duties, explain some of the options available to them, and help them plan next steps. Unbundled legal services might include limited document drafting and review, limited legal research, and legal coaching. Our volunteer lawyers do not provide representation services.
VLC- What is videoconferencing?
Videoconferencing connects two or more people using a live, visual connection between their computers. The VLC program uses the popular and easy-to-use online videoconferencing service Zoom.
As a Community Partner with the VLC, you will be providing a computer for use in a private area so that your client can speak with a lawyer who is in a different location, using videoconferencing. Using a Community Partner’s computer helps
What kinds of things can my client talk about with a VLC lawyer?
The VLC can currently service the following areas of law:
– child protection,
– human rights,
– mental health,
housing and tenancy
– criminal (both complainant and defence)
This list is subject to change as the areas of law the VLC can assist with are contingent upon the volunteer lawyers’ areas of expertise.
Who can use this service?
Your client can use this service if:
•they self-identify as a woman or gender diverse;
•they have a legal issue for which they wish to receive summary legal advice;
•they do not already have a lawyer;
•they understand and agree to the risk associated with the transmission of information online through platforms like Zoom.
Is this a safe way to get legal advice?
For most women this will be safe, but any internet activity carries some level of risk. To mitigate these risks, any written information transmitted through email or Zoom should be printed immediately and never downloaded or saved to a Community Partner’s computer.
Online safety and protecting your client’s information is covered in our training and Community Partners agreement, and the VLC staff are available to assist you as well.
What is expected of me as a Community Partner?
The purpose of the VLC program is to offer clients legal advice and ensure they have the support necessary to act on it.
Many clients struggle to implement legal advice, so as part of the client intake process, we ask that Community Partners assist clients in filling out the intake form, and then help us coordinate a three-way online meeting between themselves (the Community Partner), the client and the volunteer lawyer.
You may also be asked to:
•help the client prepare for the meeting with their lawyer,
•help the client with documents or forms as per the lawyer’s instructions,
•send the client’s documents to our office, and
•follow up with the client after their meeting with a lawyer to schedule a follow-up meeting.
Although this may seem demanding on your time, during each client’s intake call we will discuss any supports that might be required, and who might be able to provide them. This could be yourself or another organization depending on program mandates. We will never ask you to operate outside your organization’s scope of practice or mandate and will collaborate with you to find the best available supports for our client.
What is the VLC's commitment to the Community Partners?
Our commitment to you is that the VLC will also provide you with the support you need to assist the client, such as access to our Family Advocate Support Lawyer, help from our case manager, or connecting you to other existing resources.
Our legal system is complicated and multifaceted, and as a consequence, many legal matters require an array of supports. The VLC aims to connect our clients and our Community Partners with resources that will aid their efforts. This support could entail anything from referring you and your client to other services to coordinating a meeting with another Community Partner in your area to assist you and your client.
Is there on-going communication between the Community Partners and VLC?
We hold two meetings per month via Zoom to ensure our Community Partners have the opportunity to raise any issues they’ve run into, ask questions, and meet other Community Partners. These meetings are optional, although we do ask that all new Community Partners attend at least one session for initial training.