The PCLS vision statement speaks of the importance of building and mobilizing community movements for social change. We do this largely through our community development work, and our collaborative lawyering. While our lawyers are the foundation of our legal service delivery, our Community Legal Workers are the foundation of our community development work. We struggle, however, to ensure that this legal service delivery work and community development work is mutually informing.
PCLS' Community Legal Workers do not, as a rule, do casework; they are not 'paralegals.' Their main function is to do this 'community development’ work. This includes community organizing and community legal education, and working on law reform campaigns, actions and projects with the lawyers and students in their groups. Our law students and articling students take part in the community development, law reform and public legal education work as part of their education.
It is an ongoing struggle (a ‘dynamic tension’) at PCLS to balance the education of law students with the provision of high quality ‘poverty law’ legal services and community development work in Parkdale and Swansea. Another ‘dynamic tension’ is to balance the case-by-case approach of individual service delivery, with the more ‘systemic’ approach of community development, law reform projects and test case litigation. We constantly worry whether we are focusing too much on the trees, and not enough on the forest.
If you live in the area and share our goals, we encourage you to become involved in our community development work. Please see the campaigns and actions we are presently involved in. Come out for a campaign or action! Take part in a community group we are organizing! Join us in the struggle!