Faculty of Law
Downtown Legal Services
For almost fifty years, Downtown Legal Services (DLS) has proudly provided free legal services for low-income residents of Toronto and University of Toronto students in critical areas of law. At the same time, through our clinical legal education programs, we are also training the next generation of social justice lawyers.
DLS today is a much different organisation that the start-up clinic that launched in the basement of the law school. In response to the deepening national access to justice crisis, we now offer assistance with criminal law, employment law, housing law, family law and refugee and immigration law matters. We also assist University of Toronto students with academic offences and appeals. In addition to individual client services, we participate in a wide variety of community outreach activities including delivering public legal education workshops, participating in community forums and collaborating on advocacy initiatives. Through the tireless efforts of our committed staff and students, DLS assists more than 2,000 people a year.
These activities have a tremendous impact on the city in which we live, but like all publicly funded institutions, we are constantly feeling financial pressures. More recently, the cuts to Legal Aid funding and the imposition of mandatory online opt-out system for student fees have left the clinic in a very precarious financial situation with an uncertain future.
Like many front-line service organisations, DLS’s budget is lean — almost all of it goes to personnel. Any significant cuts will force us to reduce staff. Reducing staff will lead to a direct reduction in front-line legal services for vulnerable clients.
We are proud of the effect DLS has had on our community and the legal profession. At our fortieth anniversary celebration in 2012, we heard stories from our alumni and supporters about the impact the experience of working at DLS had on the careers of our students. It primed the students who passed through the doors of our clinic for advocacy work and infused a commitment to promoting access to justice. This commitment continues to be fostered here, but we need your support to help sustain our program.
Your tax-deductible donation will help ease the hardship for hundreds of Canadians in need, and help DLS ensure that the next generation of lawyers is committed to the public good. Thank you for your support.