Community & Legal Aid Services Program (CLASP)

The Community & Legal Aid Services Program (CLASP) is a clinical intensive program that provides students with an opportunity to gain practical experience through individual advocacy, community development projects, and law reform initiatives. Law students who complete the program will be able to bring alternative lawyering skills and a social justice perspective to their future work. CLASP aims to increase access to justice by providing representation to low-income individuals in three practice areas. The clinic prioritizes four disadvantaged groups who have historically been denied meaningful access to the legal system: persons living with mental health barriers, youth, female survivors of domestic violence, and members of the Jane-Finch community.

Please note students accepted into CLASP are not permitted to take any other clinical/intensive programs concurrently.

What You Will Do

CLASP’s service provision model relies on 17-20 law student Division Leaders who work in the clinic under the close supervision of lawyers (Review Counsel) for 12 months. There is a summer employment term that runs from May-August, and an academic year term that runs from September-April. Division Leaders apply for, and are assigned to, one of three legal divisions (Criminal Law, Immigration Law, or Administrative Law), where they work directly with clients and other parties in the legal system as they develop their advocacy skills. Students participate in all aspects of client cases, from the initial screening and application to the completion of the file, at times culminating with students examining witnesses and presenting submissions at hearings and trials. Tasks are varied and case-dependent, however, they will typically include: reviewing case materials, conducting research, drafting communications and submissions and/or factums, conducting client meetings, and appearing at court or tribunals. Supervising lawyers review and approve all work completed by students through regular file reviews and ongoing communication, in accordance with the strict standards of the CLASP supervision policy and the Rules of the Law Society of Ontario.

Division Leaders participate in community development initiatives and events, including Public Legal Education (PLE) presentations and community intake shifts, and may be involved in broader law reform projects. As part of their community work, students are responsible for managing cases with CLASP’s ID clinic, which is an initiative that assists vulnerable individuals to get the identification documents they need to access basic services. CLASP emphasizes the practice of law as a partnership with the community, and encourages students to challenge their perceptions of lawyers’ roles and the justice system in society, and the nature of effective lawyering. We recognize that social determinants of health have a significant impact on people living in poverty. While individuals may seek out CLASP for legal services, many of our clients require assistance with various other legal and non-legal issues, and we strive to connect clients with effective referrals and resources.

During the academic year, Division Leaders facilitate the involvement of 75-125 volunteer law students, who are involved in various aspects of CLASP’s services, including casework, intake shifts, interpretation services for applicants and clients, and occasionally special projects. Division Leaders provide mentorship and oversee assigned casework.

Student Division Leaders receive nine credit hours on a pass-fail basis for successfully completing their clinical work during the academic year. Students are also required to participate in the CLASP seminar and complete a research paper. The seminar meets weekly in the fall term and provides students with an opportunity to critically reflect upon their clinical experiences, the law, the legal system, and their roles and identities as legal advocates. Each week a different topic will be explored. The topics will provide an overview of critical perspectives on social justice, law, the legal system, and the legal processes that impact on clients. The seminar is graded for three credits. The research paper is also graded for three credits and the students will meet five – eight times during the winter term to do a presentation to the class about their topic and receive feedback on the research. Training in relevant skills and substantive law is provided at different levels throughout the year both through the seminar and through ongoing supervision of the clinical work.

The CLASP program satisfies the Praxicum requirement, and the research paper meets the requirements for the Upper Year Research and Writing Requirement.

What You Will Learn

  • written and oral advocacy skills
  • client interviewing skills
  • hearing/trial preparation including the examination of witnesses
  • procedural aspects of the legal system within the division assigned
  • skills for interacting with a diverse clientele and community
  • to work collaboratively in an interdisciplinary capacity
  • to work with clients and communities to drive community development
  • to identify key legal issues within a complex client narrative
  • ethical norms governing the practice of law

Program Director

Scarlet Smith