Newfoundland’s new small claims legal aid clinic

By Mariane Gravelle May 9, 20179 May 2017

Newfoundland’s new small claims legal aid clinic


Even getting through small claims can be a nightmare for litigants who represent themselves. Thankfully there is help in St. John’s.  The Newfoundland and Labrador Small Claims Legal Assistance Clinic. This clinic is born of a partnership between the CBA Newfoundland & Labrador branch and the Public Legal Information Network of NL (PLIAN) and is helmed by Joe J. Thorne (CBA-NL Pro Bono Chair), Ashley Woodford (Executive Director of the CBA-NL branch), and Kevin O’Shea (Executive Director of PLIAN).

The clinic, which also includes ties to the provincial court and the Newfoundland and Labrador Law Society, was set up to fill an existing gap in the institutional pro bono sector of the profession. Says Joe J. Thorne, “$25000 [the maximum claim amount allowed in small claims court] is a lot of money for people, but maybe not enough to retain a lawyer.” Clinic officials hope their services will help those clients who would benefit from legal advice but may not be in a position to pay for them.

Operating monthly sessions since July 2016, clinic lawyers and articling students have provided summary legal advice to more than 50 clients to help lead them through their case at the small claims court.While this process has not been without challenges, Joe J. Thorne is encouraged that the pilot project is going well, adding that “the experience has been enormously rewarding”. It is difficult to know – procedurally and substantively – what to do to prepare for a case and clients will undoubtedly be relieved to find a helping hand in the process.

The clinic currently runs out of St. John’s, NFLD, but the clinic’s next goal may be to expand to the province’s west coast.

To make an appointment with the clinic, contact the CBA-NL by email: or phone (709)579-5783 or contact PLIAN at (709)722-4745.

Photo licensed under Creative Commons by Natalie Lucier.

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