Better legal information

Together we are strong

Julie Mathews, Executive Director of CLEO
Julie Mathews, Executive Director of CLEO

When I began my work at CLEO at the turn of this century, public legal education and information (PLE) seemed to be an obscure field of work that rarely captured attention in the justice sector. How that has changed!

Just in the last year, we have seen several thoughtful reports that grapple with the access to justice crisis in Canada.   These reports highlight the growing importance and potential of PLE. In this and future blog posts, I will select a key PLE theme from the reports, share my thoughts, and invite your comments.

Today’s key theme:  the need for better coordination and collaboration among organizations that provide legal information to the public. Researchers confirm that people who go online looking for information to help with a legal problem often encounter an overwhelming number of websites and resources.  Even the most computer-literate people can’t quickly find on-point, easy-to-understand information that they know they can trust.

Calls to address this problem have led to an interest in creating a new “central access point” or national portal that would serve as a comprehensive “single” entry point.  Indeed, a “” site appeals to the collaborative streak in all of us.  But it raises some questions, too:

  • How does it reflect the reality of the diverse ways in which people embark on their online information hunts?
  • How would it incorporate the variety of targeted information that exists to meet the needs of specific audiences?

What to do, then?  A more in-depth investigation of various pathways to legal information, and a investigation of what users find when they take these paths, would help us better understand what needs to be done.  At the same time, we can learn by doing:  those of us in the business of providing PLE could put our heads and resources together to identify some small steps forward on this front.  I have a couple of ideas; no doubt, you do, too.

What do you think?