Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Source Publication

The Transformation of Legal Aid: Comparative and Historical Studies. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1999.


This Chapter grows out of the authors' research into contemporary developments in legal aid in Canada and the international environment. It focuses particularly on community clinics and their equivalents jn Australia, Ontario and England. All three jurisdictions have adapted the American store-front legal clinic model to the needs and legal cultures of their society. Jn Ontario and England, legal aid has been dominated by the j udicare system, emphasising the case-by-case delivery of legal services by private members of the legal profession (Zemans, 1994). J\.ustralia has a mixed model, in which over half of individual casework is dealt with by salaried lawyers in legal aid!. commissions (Fleming, 1994; Crockett, 1994). However, community-based organisations, variously called 'community legal centres' in Australia, 'legal clinics' in Ontario· and ' law centres' in the United Kingdom, have made a contribution to legal aid services that is out of proportion to the resources devoted to them (Kuras, 1994; Stephens, 1991; OLAFS, 1991).

Here we look at each jurisdiction in turn. We start by examining the history of these clinics and their progressive roots. We then consider their present activities and future in a world in which governments increasingly emphasjse centralised decision-making and control. Governments now speak the language of priorities, cost-effectiveness, financial and operational accountability, quality assurance and co-ordination. Centres perceive such demands for accountability as a threat to their independence. They fear a profound change, that will jeopardise their community roots and hamper innovation. We ask whether strategies arc available to allow clinics to retain their independence and uniqueness in the face of these pressures to 'bureaucratise'.


© Oxford University Press. By permission of Oxford University Press.

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