Bahamas Law School Brings Legal Aid Clinic into Digital Age

The Bahamas-based Eugene Dupuch Law School (EDLS) Legal Aid Clinic is bringing its services into the digital age.

Using an innovative digital platform developed by the Caribbean Agency for Justice Solutions (CAJS), the Legal Aid Clinic recently launched the pilot of its Community Legal Aid Program (CLAP).

EDLS Principal Tonya Bastian Galanis explained that CLAP’s main objective is “to increase access to justice for the public by making legal advice and services more accessible”.

She noted that the clinic’s ability to conduct in-person consultations was significantly reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic when it was not possible to interview clients in person or complete paper forms. .

“We needed to find a way to continue providing these important services to the public, but we wanted a solution that mimicked the in-person clinic experience as closely as possible,” said Bastian Galanis.

She added that what sets CLAP apart from other legal programs is the way technology is leveraged and the clinic’s mobility in communities.

The program uses an innovative digital platform developed by CAJS, called AccessLegal. Technology automates key administrative functions of the legal aid process to provide the public with better access to legal aid services.

Legal aid clinic director Nicole Sutherland King said the new program facilitates wider access to lawyers and others interested in volunteering their time and expertise. It also helps the clinic reach a wider group of Bahamians who need legal assistance.

“The new technological tools given by CAJS should facilitate the provision of legal aid services to remote communities and across our family islands,” she said.

CAJS Executive Director Bevil Wooding explained that the AccessLegal platform was specifically designed to help law schools, corporate pro bono teams and legal aid organizations in the Caribbean deliver services online.

“Technology is playing an increasingly important role in the delivery and management of legal services globally. AccessLegal helps legal aid facilities raise awareness of the region in order to benefit from efficiencies, cost savings and improved quality of service in the performance of their vital service to society.

He explained that technology helps legal aid organizations more effectively identify volunteers, conduct community surveys, orient and onboard lawyers, assign cases, monitor case status and record results and impact; for lawyers.

“It also offers easy-to-use collaboration tools for co-counselling and a digital repository for forms, resource materials and educational content,” he added.

Wooding further explained that the technology behind the AccessLegal service also allows community centers, schools, loan offices, retrofitted buses and other suitable spaces to be easily converted into secure legal aid centers. full service.

The EDLS Legal Aid Clinic serves hundreds of low-income clients each year, including single parents, retirees, immigrants and the unemployed. CLAP is a collaboration between the EDLS, the Bahamas Bar Association, the Office of the Attorney General, the Department of Legal Affairs and the CAJS.

Jon J. Epps