Archive for the 'Research Products' Category

Podcast #5, featuring Maria Franks

April 5, 2007

For the fifth Canadian PLE podcast (and this week’s third), I have an interview with Maria Franks for you. Maria is the Executive Director of the Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia (LISNS).

What’s in this one? Maria’s thoughts and tips on:

  • what you name your public legal education organization,
  • how you raise funds for it,
  • and what PLEAC needs to do to ensure a strong future for PLE.

The podcast is available as an mp3, which you can download by clicking here [38 MB MP3]. Let me know, in the comments below, what you think.

Podcast #4, featuring Peter Ringrose

April 3, 2007

Another podcast today, this time spotlighting the work and thoughts of Peter Ringrose. Peter has a long history with public legal education in Canada. Decades ago, he worked on early PLE efforts in New Brunswick, where he practiced and taught law. In 1984, he became the first executive director of the brand new Public Legal Information Association of Newfoundland (PLIAN), which he led for ten years. Peter is now the executive director of the Law Society of NL.

In my half-hour chat with Peter, we talked a lot about some of his most experimental PLE projects—including the PLE novel, Ask Me No Questions—and tackled some controversial areas, like:

  • whether pamphlets are worth it,
  • whether it’s possible to reach communities in the North,
  • and whether, as one Canadian MP once said, PLE today is out of big ideas and “just running printing presses” anymore.

The podcast is available as an mp3, which you can download by clicking here [38 MB MP3]. As always, I welcome all of your comments.

Podcast #3, featuring Ann Sherman

April 2, 2007

At long last, I’ve had a chance to edit some of the recorded interviews I have on hand. Over the first part of this week, I’ll be releasing three(!!!) new podcasts.

Today, half an hour with Ann Sherman, the just-retired former executive director of the Community Legal Information Association of PEI. Ann talks thoughtfully with me about PLE in Canada’s smallest province, focusing on special topics like:

  • the community development piece of PLE,
  • reaching low literacy groups,
  • and the need for more research in PLE.

The podcast is available as an mp3, which you can download by clicking here [42 MB MP3]. If you have any trouble with the file, or any comments on the content, leave a comment here.

PLE on Wikipedia

March 23, 2007

Wikipedia is a “free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.” This web-based encyclopedia, which the Globe and Mail has called a “glorious social experiment” (and which Wired magazine has called “a repository of knowledge to rival the ancient library of Alexandria”), now has over six million articles in over 250 languages. Until today, there was no article among those six million on PLE, PLEI, plei, community legal education, law-related education, or any of the other fields in our universe.

I have spent the morning putting together a starter of an article on PLE [link]. The first job—defining the term—took me all of the morning (plus the months I’ve spent mulling and attempting it already). Take a look and see what you think.

And if you don’t like what you see, you can fix it yourself! Wikipedia encourages all readers to “be bold” in editing articles. But staff and volunteers at PLE organizations should take note of Wikipedia’s conflict of interest guidelines [link], which urge you not to link to or trumpet your own organization.

I hope this article will grow to become a high-quality explanation of what PLE is, what it does, and why it’s important. Since Wikipedia is becoming a first reference source for journalists, scholars, and the public, the Wikipedia PLE entry could have a big impact on worldwide understanding of PLE.

By popular demand: printer-friendly PLEI organization timeline

March 5, 2007

Several of you requested a more printable version of the draft PLEI organization timeline that I posted here last Thursday. I’ve wrangled it down into something that should come out okay on letter-sized paper. I’ve updated and corrected the timeline a little as well. Please continue to pass your comments and requests on to me.

Click on the image to download the printer-friendly draft timeline [188 KB PDF].

Timeline of sole-purpose PLE in Canada: first draft

March 1, 2007

Take a look at this timeline of sole-purpose PLE organizations in Canada that I’ve put together (click on the image to enlarge):

Please comment or email me with corrections, additions, and suggestions. Although in almost all cases I have pinned down the year when each organization began operations, in a few spots I still don’t know the precise month some groups started. If you can fill any of this information in, let me know; if not, oh well. (Also, I know that the Legal Services Society of BC is not a “sole-purpose” PLEI provider. But the LSS commitment has been so strong for so long that the chart would be incomplete without that strand.)

Podcast #2, featuring Carol McEown and Lois Gander

December 18, 2006

For the second in my series of podcasts on Canadian public legal education, I have an interview with two well-known and long-time PLE practitioners: Carol McEown, recently retired manager of public legal education services at the Legal Services Society of BC, and Lois Gander, Director of the Legal Studies Program at the University of Alberta. This turned out to be a sweeping, forty-minute discussion about the evolution of PLE in Canada, its radical origins and empowering possibilities, and a host of other topics. Here are two quotes to give a taste:

I absolutely grew up believing that the law belonged to me … to use and to challenge and to make work for my community. —Carol McEown

We have gone away from the idea that the public are citizens and have any ownership of the law or the processes … I think we’ve got to get away from the “consumer” mentality. —Lois Gander

The podcast is available as an mp3, which you can download by clicking here. If you have any trouble with the file, or any comments on the content, let me know by clicking on the “Comments” link, below.

Law Courts Education Society: history and programming

December 12, 2006

This is the second in a series of histories of major public legal education organizations in Canada. The first looked at the People’s Law School; today, I cover the other sole-purpose PLE organization in BC, the Law Courts Education Society.


The Law Courts Education Society (LCES) has been a sole-purpose public legal education (PLE) provider since 1989, and before that had been a dedicated PLE program of the Courts of British Columbia since 1979. Today, LCES maintains an enormous palette of programs and projects, centered around court visits, classes, and workshops for students and the community. The Society’s work also includes in-school programs, publications and videos, collaboration on a drop-in self-help centre for self-represented litigants, and both Canada-wide and international projects.

Street view of the LCES classroom in the downtown Vancouver Provincial Courts building (click to enlarge)
LCES downtown Vancouver classroom, view from Howe Street

In 1979, upon the completion of a new courts complex in Vancouver, the British Columbia courts agreed to collaborate with the BC Ministry of the Attorney General (MAG) on a three-year experimental program to use the law courts to build public understanding of law in the province. The three-year project, enjoying the financial and administrative support of the Court Services Branch of the MAG and the advisory assistance of the BC judiciary, grew quickly to become a successful program. Indeed, the program’s success carried it long past the initial three-year pilot period, and by 1989 it had brought over 150,000 people into the BC courts to learn about the Canadian justice system. Major projects during this time included PLE programming for upper- and intermediate-level school students, mock trials, and special publications and events for non-English-speaking and multicultural communities.

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Audio from the field: Podcast #1, featuring Gordon Hardy

December 6, 2006

podcast.gifOne of the artifacts I picked up from my November site visits in Vancouver was a “for air” interview with Gordon Hardy, Executive Director of the People’s Law School. Rather than try to describe it, I hope you’ll listen to it. It is the first “podcast” in a series that I hope to present through this blog.

It is an mp3 file, and you can download it by clicking here. It runs a little over twenty minutes. Let me know by email if you have any trouble opening or hearing the file.

The People’s Law School: history and programming

October 26, 2006

This is the first of a series of organizational histories that I’ll be posting here throughout the next several months. From November 6–28, I’ll be in Vancouver, BC, to visit the major PLEI projects there: the People’s Law School, the Law Courts Education Society, and the BC Legal Services Society’s legal information department. In preparation for those visits, I’ll be posting brief histories of each organization.


    Organization History

Most people point to the People’s Law School in British Columbia as the very first sole-purpose public legal education organization in Canada. In every year since its 1972 founding, the People’s Law School has focused on providing free law classes and plain-language publications to the British Columbian public, offering programs province-wide and in many languages.

People’s Law School initial funding, from the 1972 Federal Government Opporunities for Youth grant catalog (click to enlarge)
People’s Law School initial Opportunities for Youth funding, 1972

The People’s Law School got its start in May 1972 with $11,650 (about $57,000 in 2006 dollars) from the Canadian federal government’s “Opportunities for Youth” (OFY) program. Founder Diana Davidson, a second-year University of British Columbia law student at the time, got the idea for a community-based public legal education project when she learned about a “People’s Law School” operating in the San Francisco Bay area. With the OFY money and help from about seven initial volunteers, the group began operations out of Davidson’s basement laundry room as the “Vancouver People’s Law School” (VPLS). The project’s purpose, as Davidson articulated it at the beginning, was to instruct Vancouverites not only about “what the law is” but also on how to influence the law and “recognize the danger of those bills that seek to curtail or eliminate fundamental rights.”

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