Downtown Legal Services (DLS) is the law school’s leading public interest clinic for low income clients, and the home of its Public Interest Advocacy clinical education programs.  

Every year, approximately 180 students participate in the operation of this clinic, as volunteers, credit students, division leaders, and members of the executive board. Students are supervised by staff lawyers, but are fully responsible for individual files and appear regularly before courts and administrative tribunals on behalf of their clients.

The clinic operates within a highly multicultural urban community and offers legal assistance in the areas of academic offences and appeals, criminal law, family law, refugee and immigration law, and tenant housing.

Downtown Legal Services also has three satellite clinics, which operate in partnership with community organizations:

  • Out of the Cold, for homeless clients
  • Meal-Trans, for transgendered clients
  • Red Door, a shelter for abused women and their children

The philosophy of the clinic is that legal assistance should be empowering, and that clients are entitled to vigorous, intelligent advocacy in the context of an overall social justice perspective. In recognition of the fact that many problems faced by its clients result from systemic legal, social or economic factors,  the clinic also has an active public education program and an expanding law reform program, primarily centred on the litigation of test cases.

Under the supervision of the clinic’s lawyers, law students provide advice, representation and public legal education for low income community members who might not otherwise have access to justice.  This may include providing legal opinions, negotiating settlements, drafting legal documents, representing them at hearings and trials, and providing community workshops.
  
The clinical experience allows students to develop new insight into the social reality of law and legal institutions, to explore ethical issues, and to acquire crucial professional skills. Students have a choice of three clinical education programs: both first year and upper year students can volunteer at the clinic, while second and third year students can also enroll in either the part-time or full-time intensive Public Interest Advocacy programs for academic credit.  These PIA programs include seminars, which use the immediate experience of clinical work as a pathway to more general investigations of contemporary legal and social issues.

For more information about Downtown Legal Services or the Public Interest Advocacy Programs, visit the clinic’s website at: http://dls.sa.utoronto.ca/ 

Contact Information:

Downtown Legal Services
Fasken Martineau Building
655 Spadina Avenue
Toronto, ON
M5S 2H9

(416) 934-4535
E-mail: law.dls@utoronto.ca