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The Legal Health Check-Up Project Is Growing

Ab Currie, PhD

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Legal Health Check-Up (LHC) project that was developed by the Halton Community Legal Service (HCLS) is expanding to an additional twelve community legal clinics in southwestern Ontario.  The new clinics include: the Chatham-Kent Legal Clinic, Community Legal Assistance Sarnia, Elgin-Oxford Legal Clinic, Huron-Perth Community Legal Clinic, Justice Niagara, Legal Assistance of Windsor, Neighbourhood Legal Services (London and Middlesex) Inc, Waterloo Region Community Legal Services, Windsor-Essex Bilingual Legal Clinic, Hamilton Community Legal Clinic, Legal Clinic of Guelph and the Brant Haldimand and Norfolk Community Legal Clinic. The clinics in Hamilton, Brant and Guelph have been developing their own LHC projects since late summer 2015. These three early adopters have made great progress in establishing partnerships with intermediary groups and in developing collaborative arrangements with them.  The other nine began their work with an ‘innovation lab’ meeting on January 29, held at the McMaster Innovation Park in Hamilton. Participants from the Halton, Hamilton, Guelph and Brant legal clinics shared their experiences with the nine new adopters. Some of the main topics of discussion included: recruiting intermediaries, monitoring and data collection and using the LHC questionnaire.

The expansion of the LHC is part of the LAO Transformation Process which is designed to strengthen the capacity of community legal clinics. It is also anticipated that the expansion of the LHC approach will create an exciting learning environment over the coming year. The LHC approach that was developed by the HCLS is not a template to be replicated as is but, rather, a model to be adapted to the service delivery environment in each of the individual clinics. The expansion should encourage innovation and creativity rather than imitation. Each of the twelve adopting clinics will develop their own approach within the goals that define the fundamentals of the LHC approach, which can be summarized as: achieving greater outreach, increasing the numbers of people served and, devising holistic and integrated approaches to meeting the legal needs of the poor. The implementation process in the adopting clinics and the continuing work in Halton will create a wealth of comparative information. This body of knowledge will address the different ways in which the clinics produce broadly similar outcomes, including the serendipitous discoveries and unanticipated consequences that arise from any implementation process. Giving credit where it is due, this is a wise investment in innovation by Legal Aid Ontario which will enrich the LAO community clinic system and legal aid in general.