Members of the bar are invited to become Public Interest Partners with Osgoode Hall Law School. The Osgoode Public Interest Requirement (OPIR) involves 40 hours of uncompensated, law-related public interest work, which engages students with work that facilitates access to justice, activities that seek substantive law reform, and services that build the capacity of organizations or communities to engage with the law. Taking on an Osgoode Public Interest student is an excellent opportunity for members of the bar to enhance their capacity, participate in practical legal education, serve as role models, and introduce law students to the challenges that arise in practice.
In addition to contributing to the practical education of the next generation of lawyers and building strong ties with Osgoode Hall Law School, your firm or organization will benefit from the hard work of one or more Osgoode students. Participating in OPIR is an excellent opportunity to introduce students to your area of work and to benefit from their eager participation.
In the past, students have been placed in government, with tribunals, with community legal clinics, with practitioners supplying pro bono or legal aid services in criminal, family, immigration, or child protection work, and with non-government organizations. The work must be law-related, uncompensated (for both the student and the organization), in the public interest, and must be supervised by a qualified lawyer. Many kinds of work qualify, but some examples include:
Legal aid matters, Test case litigation, Pro Bono services, Access to justice, public legal education, or policy work
Your Responsibilities as Supervising Lawyer
Your primary role is to supervise the students’ work. The students may have little to no familiarity with your practice area and are not qualified to give legal advice. It is thus your responsibility to ensure that any work they produce for the public under your supervision is legally accurate.
While you have no specific obligations beyond supervising the students’ work, many OPIR partners enjoy acting as mentors to the students. OPIR helps students to identify areas of interest, gain practical skills, meet mentors, role models and potential employers, engage with the community, and appreciate the practice of law in a profession which has the privilege and responsibility of self-regulation.
If you are working with a student with a disability and they require an accommodation, the OPIR director is available to facilitate a plan for both the student and the partner, with attention to the unique context of the student’s needs and the specific placement.
Becoming an Osgoode Public Interest Partner
If you would like to participate as an OPIR partner, complete the Program Partner Registration form and email it directly to the OPIR Office at OPIRadmin@osgoode.yorku.ca. Should you require further information, please call Maria Frasca at 416-736-5138.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long should a placement be?
Osgoode students are required to complete 40 public interest hours before graduating. However, placements can be for shorter or longer periods, and one or more students may be placed with your organization.
Ultimately, the nature of your project is determinative of the placement.
Who will be placed with me?
Osgoode will work with you to screen potential candidates to ensure the best fit. You are free to specify a required level of study, assets, skills, and knowledge in your posting. If no appropriate students apply for your position, you are under no obligation to take someone on.
Are there any restrictions on when I post my project, or when students may work with me?
Students may complete their OPIR hours at any point during their JD, and you are free to post your project at any time. Depending on the nature of your project, you may find it best to negotiate a schedule with your student(s) or to include the schedule in your posting. Keep in mind that the end of each term (November- December and March-April) tends to be much busier for students than the beginning.
Are there any costs involved in becoming a Partner?
No, students are required to work on an uncompensated basis for OPIR. Where space is an issue and where the project needs are appropriate, students may provide services off-site.
Do I have any other obligations to my students?
You are required to supervise and sign off on the students’ work. The level of supervision or student training required will depend on the students’ skill level and the nature of your project. You will also be expected to sign off on your students’ hours before they can submit them for consideration. Although you may take your opportunity as an OPIR partner to act as a lawyer-mentor to your students, you have no specific obligations to your placement students in this capacity.
What do I do if my project is not finished before my student’s 40 hours are complete?
If any work remains unfinished or requires revision, students may agree to work beyond their required 40 hours. Many students opt to stay on until the completion of the project. You may also take on other Osgoode students, either at the same time or in succession. Communicate project goals and expected timelines with the student upfront, and discuss timelines and expectations throughout the project to ensure that you and the student have the same understanding.
What is meant by “any health, safety, or behavioural incident”?
This refers to work related events whose consequences have the potential to, or have resulted in, the student requiring medical treatment, or being absent from the placement.
What should I do if I am unsatisfied with my student and/or their work?
We rarely hear negative feedback about the quality of our students’ work. However, in the event that you have a problem, question, or complaint, you should contact Maria Frasca at 416-736-5138 or OPIRadmin@osgoode.yorku.ca immediately.
Can I speak with a current or past Public Interest Partner?
If you would like to be put in contact with a past Partner, please email OPIRadmin@osgoode.yorku.ca or call 416-736-5138 and we will do our best to connect you with someone. If no past Partners are available, the OPIR Director would be happy to answer any questions you might have.