Justice Innovation at Work: Family LawLINE connects people to lawyers
From her office in Golden, BC, lawyer Amber Van Drielen helps people from across BC with their family law problems. “I can remember the audible sigh of relief from a client on the other end of the line once she realized she might be able to obtain spousal support and pay her rent,” Amber said.
As lead lawyer of the Legal Services Society’s (LSS) Family LawLINE phone service, Amber and 12 other contract lawyers provide legal advice services to people with low incomes from their own offices around the province. It's just one of the innovative ways LSS connects British Columbians to legal aid.
Family LawLINE clients often live in rural areas at significant distances from other services, and their legal matters may be complicated by other issues, such as health concerns and lack of funds for transportation or photocopies necessary for court appearances.
Although the phone line has been around for a while, it was expanded to include more services with pilot project funding until 2017 from the BC Ministry of Justice. Since the full model went into effect, LawLINE has been able to help over 1,800 people (April 1 - October 31, 2015).
Amber describes some of the ways the service helps people:
It is difficult to say who a “typical” client is for the Family LawLINE. There are those with last-minute urgent issues. For example, the client who has already purchased tickets for international travel with her children only to find out that there is a problem at the passport office because the other parent won’t sign the paperwork. Or the other parent refuses to sign the travel consent. There are also the clients that need — perhaps for a medical reason — to request an adjournment of a hearing or trial at the last minute. In these types of last-minute stressful situations, Family LawLINE services are greatly appreciated.
Then there are clients who have recently separated. This is a perfect time to speak with a family lawyer. I am able to review with the client their legal position and options.
Often clients may need to vary an existing court order or they are on the responding end. I recall assisting an elderly client who was responding to an application to terminate her spousal support in the Supreme Court. Over the course of a couple of consults, we worked together on her response. I sensed as we worked on the matter together that she found a new sense of confidence in her ability to respond and deal with the action.
Overall, working with clients on the Family LawLINE is an interesting and rewarding experience.