The grand opening of the TRU Community Legal Clinic was held on Friday, April 1 on the North Shore with the mayor and members of the legal community in attendance.
TRU Community Legal Clinic supervising lawyer Ted Murray said he was very impressed with the turnout.
“It was nice for me to meet a lot of these people and they were very enthused about the opportunity the clinic presents to improve justice in Kamloops,” he said.
The new program was designed to increase access to justice and legal services for low-income populations in Kamloops while giving students practical experience.
Murray said, “the biggest and most concrete thing you immediately get from a program like this is having clients, and even just the initial interview with the client and the process of identifying their legal issue is a very, very important skill for law students to develop.”
The initial focus of the program was meant to be on residential tenancy, however Murray said the students could give advice on other issues.
“We can deal with quite a wide range of other issues, sort of employment issues, consumer protection issues and as the clinic develops we’ll be able to help with some other things such as small scale criminal matters or human rights complaints,” he said.
TRU Assistant Professor Ruby Dhand said the program is an opportunity for students to apply practical legal skills for low-income people as well as understand the importance of fostering access to justice as part of their professional responsibility.
“The clinical legal education program will enable law students to use the law as a tool for social justice by working with community agencies and nonprofit organizations,” she said.
Murray said it was a selected and closely-supervised group of six students chosen by a committee to participate in the program.
“I, as the supervising lawyer, am in charge of reviewing in detail whatever advice the students plan to give,” he said.
“My students can’t provide the same caliber of legal services that someone who’s been called to the bar for 25 years can but the vast majority of our population in Canada can’t afford that kind of lawyer in any event,” Murray said.
“We’re not quite yet at the stage where we can go to court on behalf of a client but in my experience with a similar program at UBC is that overall, clients really benefit from the assistance of students,” he said.
The Community Legal Clinic is located in the Centre For Seniors Information in Brocklehurst Shopping Centre with free legal advice for clients meeting low-income financial eligibility requirements.