News ReleaseJanuary 21, 2016
Launch of LawConnect promises enhanced public legal education in Ontario
Last evening a crowd gathered at the Law Society to celebrate the launch of LawConnect. Leaders in the public legal education community, including The Honourable Roy McMurtry, Chief Justice Heather Forster Smith and Law Society Treasurer Janet Minor joined over 100 teachers, judges, lawyers, community partners and funders for this celebratory event.
LawConnect is a new collaboration between Ontario's leading public legal education and information (PLEI) organizations, Ontario Justice Education Network (OJEN) and Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO). OJEN delivers education programs to schools and youth organizations about the Ontario justice system. CLEO produces free print and online legal information resources on a range of legal topics, including housing, family, social assistance, and employment law.
"Something has become increasingly clear to both organizations," says Julie Mathews, CLEO's executive director. "We share the same goals – to further access to justice through education and information – and many aspects of our work are similar. We realized that collaborating and coordinating more closely would help us do our work better, leading to higher quality programs and information for the communities we serve."
"Talking about collaboration and finding ways to work better together is somewhat unusual in our sector," says Jess Reekie, OJEN's executive director. "We are extremely grateful that our primary funders and partners not only supported but also encouraged us to make this move."
OJEN and CLEO have been sharing office space for almost a year, a move that has already led to administrative efficiencies. Substantive joint projects will follow, including developing curriculum and other training materials to help lawyers and legal workers deliver legal information workshops for the public and developing technology based educational tools using CLEO content to support OJEN classroom and community programs.
"The opportunities for this kind of cross-pollination between our two groups are endless. We are very excited about LawConnect," says Alexandra Flynn, CLEO's vice-chair. "Once we really focus on how we can meet the needs of the people of Ontario together, we believe that our work will have a tremendous impact on access to justice across the province."
"By joining forces, both organizations will have greater capacity than if we continue working independently," says the Hon. Justice Anne Molloy, OJEN's co-chair. "This will translate into increased support for our key partners, all of whom are engaged in critically-needed transformative work in their communities."
About OJEN and CLEO
OJEN provides justice education resources and programs in schools and communities across Ontario, helping youth and their families to understand how the justice system works and how to anticipate and manage legal issues. Mock hearings, school and community programs provide opportunities to learn about the law, legal process and meet justice sector professionals. OJEN receives long-term funding from The Law Foundation of Ontario and the Law Society of Upper Canada.
CLEO is a non-profit organization that provides accurate and easy-to-understand information and education about the law for people in Ontario. For over 40 years, CLEO has reached people who have low incomes or are marginalized in other ways, with critical legal rights information. CLEO is funded by Legal Aid Ontario, the Department of Justice Canada, and the Law Foundation of Ontario.