Basic legal information essential to justice in Canada

April 29, 2009

Basic legal information essential to justice

As a lawyer or even just someone with a law degree, we often forget that people don’t know the very basics of law that we all learned in the first year of law school.  Once we learn it, we forget that others don’t know things that we take for granted as basic information.  It’s very true that the more you know, the less you think you know.  As you learn more things you realize that there is so much to know that you feel you don’t really know even a fraction of what there is to know.  In the legal profession I find that lawyers, even after having practised or worked in the legal field for years, often feel that they have so much more to learn.  This is probably true and that’s why they feel that way.  However, they still know so much more about the law and legal rights than non-lawyers that their expertise is priceless to non-lawyers.  We often forget that so many people don’t know the basics of how the legal system works; they aren’t aware of their legal rights; and they don’t really know about how the law can affect them.  Even though we live in a democracy and all the citizens of this country should know the basics, they don’t.  A basic legal education is lacking in this democratic society; but the government is unlikely remedy this anytime soon.  That’s where lawyers, law students, and judges come in.  By sharing their knowledge and answering questions from the public, legal professionals can help ‘democratize’ the law by giving the public the basics.  It’s not so much free legal advice as it is free legal education.  Legal professionals that do this are truly a democratizing force in this country.  They are improving access to justice and teaching the public about their legal rights and about how the law applies to them; something we should all know anyway. These legal professionals set the standard for the future lawyers of Canada.  We certainly don’t expect lawyers and judges to answer legal questions and provide free legal information, but when they do they prove themselves worthy of the respect they receive—they are the future of access to justice in this country.

Nancy Kinney
Founder of
Democratizing the law one question at a time

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