Research Plan

2006–2007 Canada-U.S. Fulbright Student Research:
“Public Legal Education” in Canada

RESEARCH PLAN
Ritchie Eppink
eppink@ualberta.ca
(780) 278-8211
September 11, 2006

[download a PDF of this document]

From September 1, 2006, to May 31, 2007, I will be conducting research on Canadian “public legal education” (PLE)—a nationwide enterprise that enables the Canadian public to learn about the law through a variety of formats. Hoping to provide useful information to the Canadian PLE provider community and prepare myself to provide PLE in the U.S., I will focus my research on PLE programming and PLE organization management through archives research and site visits to PLE providers.

I will be based at the Legal Studies Program and Faculty of Law at the University of Alberta, in Edmonton. My research is funded by a Canada-U.S. Fulbright Student Research Award from monies allocated by the U.S. Congress.

This document sets out the (1) aims, (2) focuses, (3) method, and (4) products of my research.

AIMS

My research has two aims:

  • to contribute to the field of Canadian PLE and provide useful information to the network of Canadian PLE providers, and
  • to develop, in myself, skills for providing PLE and managing a PLE provider organization.

To ensure that my research contributes to the field, I will continually adjust my research activities—within the parameters set out in this research plan—in response to feedback from the Canadian PLE provider community. I will facilitate this feedback by keeping an online journal (blog) of my research activities, regularly updating and contributing substantially to the www.plecanada.org website with my research results, and working closely with the Professional Development and Research standing committee of the Public Legal Education Association of Canada (PLEAC). Moreover, my research plan has already been significantly shaped by comments from PLE workers.

I hope to develop skills for providing PLE and managing PLE organizations because I intend, after my research concludes in May 2007, to carry the Canadian sole-purpose PLE provider model to the United States. Ideally, I will secure funding for a new, grassroots legal education organization to begin in the summer of 2007.

FOCUSES

I will focus my research on PLE programming and the structure and management of standalone, sole-purpose PLE provider organizations.

My focus on PLE programming—the individual campaigns and projects undertaken by PLE providers to educate the public about law—will be my primary focus. Within this focus, I will focus especially on:

  • needs assessment (ways of determining what legal information a community needs),
  • program design and development (preparing PLE programs that will meet the community’s needs),
  • program delivery (taking PLE programs to the community with maximum impact), and
  • program evaluation (determining how well PLE programs have met the community’s needs).

Across all and within each of these four areas, I will attempt to identify effective skills, methods, and practices for PLE programming. I will also focus on how standalone, sole-purpose PLE organizations are managed and structured. Within this focus, I will primarily investigate:

  • internal structure (how decisions are made within PLE organizations),
  • “collaborative” posture (how PLE organizations are set up to contribute to and learn from the community of PLE providers in Canada and elsewhere),
  • “public” posture (how PLE organizations are set up to interact with the publics that they serve).

I will also collect legal advice policies (organization guidelines for minding the line between legal education and legal advice) and anecdotal “executive director wisdom.” In this area, as with my PLE programming research focus, I will try to identify effective skills, methods, and practices for PLE provider management.

METHOD

I will complete my research in three phases:

  • archive research at the University of Alberta,
  • site visits to standalone, sole-purpose PLE provider organizations throughout Canada,
  • completion of final research products, at the University of Alberta.

During the first phase, based at the Legal Studies Program (LSP) and Faculty of Law at the University of Alberta, I will catalog past PLE programs and sole-purpose PLE organizations dating back to the 1960s. As I identify notable and successful past PLE programs and organizations, I will prepare case studies of those programs and organizations, emphasizing the research sub-focuses described above. When possible, I will conduct telephone interviews with key individuals involved in the past programs and organizations I highlight. After investigating past programs and organizations, I will turn my attention to current programs and organizations. I will identify six notable current standalone, sole-purpose PLE organizations and schedule site visits, to be conducted during the second phase. The first phase will run for three months (about 500 research hours)—from September through November, 2006.

During the second phase, I will visit the six notable PLE organizations identified at the end of the first phase. Each site visit will last two to three weeks, and during each visit I will prepare a thorough case study of the organization and case studies of any notable PLE programs the organization has ongoing during my visit (I will also prepare a case study of LSP, drawing from my experiences while based there throughout this research). These visits are crucial to the research plan, as I hope they will provide a picture of PLE provider activity that I could not glean from print and web information. This second phase will run for about four months (approximately 650 research hours)—from November 2006 through March 2007.

During the final phase, I will (1) compile the results of the second phase and (2) memorialize the results of all of my research. I am leaving the specifics of this phase intentionally undecided; as I collect information about PLE programs and organization through the first and second phases, I will determine the best formats for disseminating my research results to the Canadian PLE community. This phase will run for two months (about 350 research hours), April and May 2007.

PRODUCTS

I will document my research in several ways:

  • a catalog of PLE programs and organizations from the 1960s to the present,
  • extensive additions to the content and links on the http://www.plecanada.org website,
  • regular, published journal (blog) entries about my research activities,
  • final reports and other products, as appropriate.

The main products of my research will be (1) a catalog of past and current PLE programming and organizations and (2) substantial additions to the www.plecanada.org website, which provides an existing public framework and repository for information about Canadian PLE. I will also publish regular updates on my research on the PLE Canada blog. Also, as described above, I will use the final two months of my research to prepare final research products—but I will determine the nature of those products after I learn what my research reveals and discuss with the PLE provider community how best to communicate my research results to the field. Finally, the goodwill, prestige, and press office of the Fulbright program will allow me to increase publicity of Canadian PLE, in both Canada and the United States.

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