Welcome to Rise Women’s Legal Centre, a non-profit legal clinic providing services to women in BC.
As the summer winds down, we are getting ready to welcome our second cohort of upper year students from UBC’s Allard School of Law, re-start new client intake, and reflect on everything that has happened since we opened our doors to family law clients on May 24, 2016.
It has been said that there is no single area of law that touches the lives of as many people as family law. Family breakdown can impact anyone, is often terribly scary, and may one of the most emotionally difficult experiences of peoples’ lives. All of this is made far worse by a complex legal system, and while we know that there is a lot of self-help information available online and in paper form, none of it compares to being able to work directly with a real person. Without legal assistance the legal system can be daunting and leave people stuck and unable to move forward; the idea behind the name “Rise” is our hope that clients will be able to journey through and past and beyond the difficult times by moving their legal matters towards some form of resolution.
The stories our clients have told us this summer have been inspiring, traumatic, depressing and life-affirming in equal measure. We have talked to women with a huge range of ages, backgrounds and lived experiences and have learned so much about running a student clinic. It’s one thing to read that deep and abiding cuts have been made to Legal Aid in BC over the past 15 years, but quite another to watch women literally dragging suitcases of court documents into your office as they struggle through the system on their own, often for years at a time. In my mind’s eye, this is what 15 years of cuts to legal services now looks like. (Incidentally, in my mind’s eye “hope” now looks like the brilliant and committed law students who will soon become part of the next generation of lawyers.)
Although one tiny legal clinic cannot fill the gap in legal services in this province, we hope to constantly find new ways to offer compassionate and professional services to women who would not otherwise be able to access their legal rights. Although we’ve limited our services to family law in summer 2016 we’re hoping that with the help of some wonderful lawyer volunteers we will be able to expand our services this fall and into the spring, so check back with us.
To any clients who came to Rise this summer: we hope that we were able to help in some small way, and thank you for taking the time to make contact with us. To summer students who are leaving us: thank you for all your energy and enthusiasm. To the fall students and volunteers about to join us: we can’t wait to meet you.